Wendover casinos get new life

December 24, 2002 5:56 AM
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   Two bankrupt Wendover casinos are getting an infusion of fresh cash and new blood.

   The Silversmith has been purchased by Peppermill principals Bill Paganetti and Natale Carasali.

   The Stateline has been bought by Generation 2000, a limited liability corporation controlled by Bill and Melissa Richardson and William and David Ensign.

   Neither sale price was announced, but both buyers pledge to pump millions into the casinos formerly owned by the Smith family of Salt Lake City. The takeovers took effect Friday.

   With the 248-room Silversmith — which will be renamed Montego Bay — Peppermill owns six casinos and five hotels throughout Nevada. It is the largest privately held, multiproperty corporation in the state.

   Montego Bay will be the “premier property” in the border town, said Paganetti, whose firm will invest $25 million in the hotel-casino over the next eight months. All slots will be replaced and restaurants will be added.

   Peppermill, which also owns the nearby Peppermill and Rainbow clubs, wanted the Stateline as well. But antitrust concerns sidelined that deal. With its latest purchase, the company controls 64 percent of the gaming revenue in Wendover. So Generation 2000 stepped in.

   The Richardson-Ensign team also plans a wholesale makeover of its new club, which is connected to Montego Bay by a skywalk.

   Chief Operating Officer David Ensign said the newly named Stateline Nugget will install a player tracking system, replace all 980 slot machines and add restaurants. Leroy’s will operate the casino’s sports book.

   Ensign, based in Las Vegas, said the Nugget will “target [Utah’s] Wasatch Front.”

 “Wendover has not hit its potential yet,’’ Paganetti added. “Pound for pound, it’s the best market.’’

   Some analysts agree, noting that eastern Nevada does not face the same competitive pressures squeezing western Nevada, where California Indian casinos are raking off more business.

   Ensign and Generation 2000 are equally bullish about Wendover’s prospects. The firm acquired a 22-acre site elsewhere in town for future expansion

   Gaming Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander called the acquisitions “a great thing to help the area get back on its feet.’’

   In other action, the board and commission:

”¡ Considered a single license for Harrah’s, Harveys and Bill’s Lake Tahoe casinos at South Lake Tahoe. The consolidation would allow the Harrah’s-owned properties to combine accounting and administrative functions.

Bill’s, formerly known as Barney’s Casino, has a colorful past. Its then-owner, Richard Chartrand, was killed 35 years ago when his car exploded outside his Northern Nevada home. The case was never solved, and some speculated that the dynamite bomb was actually intended for Nevada Gaming Commission chairman Frank Johnson, who lived across the street from Chartrand.

”¡ Approved Mandalay Bay’s application for an international gaming salon. Art Rodriguez, senior vice president of casino operations, said the five-room enclave will “reach out to super whales” who have $1 million in gaming potential. Mandalay now joins Caesars Palace and MGM Grand in offering private high-limit rooms.

 

 

”¡ Adopted new workcard standards. The $75 cards will be valid at all Nevada properties and will be good for up to five years. Officials said the new regulations carry severe penalties for violation of privacy rights.