Nugget owners eye
new casino venture

Feb 15, 2005 10:05 AM

Tim Poster and Tom Breitling are not going away. The next big deal for the co-owners of the Golden Nugget is just a matter of time.

Insiders report that Poster wants to go bi-coastal — as in owning casinos in both Atlantic City and Las Vegas.

Poster has no shortage of ambition and passion for the gambling business. He’s in it because he wants to be there, not because he took a wrong turn on his way to making a fortune in real estate.

And his buddy and partner Breitling is right there with him.

Even though they owned the Nugget for just a short while, the former dot-com whiz kids made what appears to be a substantial profit — $80 million to $100 million — on their sale of the downtown hotel to publicly-traded Landry’s Restaurants.

Granted, they took some lumps trying to deal to high-rollers, but that component of the casino business has always been volatile.

Look at the ups and downs of the Strip baccarat figures, a regular roller coaster ride.

I remember a Caesars World official being pressured by a squeamish Wall Streeter who couldn’t understand the resort’s willingness to deal to players who could win (gasp!) $10 million or more at a time.

It’s all part of creating an image that brings lots of other people through the front door, the Caesars exec was saying.

A former Fremont Street neighbor became a legend dealing some of the highest limits of any casino. Horseshoe founder Benny Binion was fond of saying, "Your first bet’s your limit."

It worked for him. Given time, it may have worked for Poster and Breitling.

But back to life after the Golden Nugget. One confidante close to Poster said he could make a bid for something like Aztar in the next year or so. Aztar, of course owns the Tropicana in both Atlantic City and Las Vegas.

We are also advised to watch the Poster-Station Casinos connection. Remember, Poster was on the Station board of directors before buying the Nugget, and he remains close to the Fertitta family.

So it’s not hard to imagine Station Chairman Frank Fertitta III being something of a deal maker here. The connection could also extend to Frank’s cousin Tilman Fertitta, who chairs Landry’s and is looking to buy a casino or two.

As for the Landry deal to buy the Nugget, all signs suggest it happened in a hurry.

One downtown observer remarked, "I didn’t even know it (The Nugget) was for sale."

It’s hard to image a sale of that magnitude being put together without some kind of personal and/or business connection between the principals.

It wouldn’t surprise to see other deals materialize the same way.

March Madness
of Poker

Poker’s appeal continues very strong. The two-hour finale of Poker Superstars filmed at the Palms and aired on NBC Super Bowl Sunday finished second only to the Super Bowl pre-game show among televised sports events. It beat a good golf tourney and a very good Lakers game.

What’s up next? NBC will film the "National Heads-Up Championship" featuring 64 invited players March 5-6, at the Golden Nugget. NBC will televise the event in early May.

The tournament looks surprisingly similar to the NCAA men’s basketball championship tournament — March Madness — that kicks off in mid-March.

The format is also unusual in that the 64 players are paired in head-to-head match-ups, just like in the basketball tourney. Most poker tournaments start with a field broken into tables with the winners of the tables advancing.

The event will feature a $1.5 million purse and will air on NBC over four consecutive Sundays in May. The overall winner will take home $500,000.

Monorail woes

As the Las Vegas Monorail struggles to keep on track, Boyd Gaming President Don Snyder suggests its operators fix problems that hinder marketing. "There needs to be a reliable operation and reliable record of attendance," he says. "Both of these haven’t happened yet ... that’s created a lack of ability to market the monorail."