Golden Gaming gets Hard Rock nod

Jul 18, 2006 4:38 AM

In the past five years, Blake Sartini has been viewed primarily as a tavern and slots route operator but that could change radically when Morgans Hotel Group completes its plans to acquire the Hard Rock Hotel/Casino in Las Vegas.

Surprising the so-called insiders who speculated that Morgans, whose interest is in hotel management and not gaming, would turn to Boyd Gaming Corp. (BYD) to run the Hard Rock’s casino since Morgans already has a deal to build a hotel as part of Boyd Gaming’s Echelon development on the site of the Stardust Hotel/Casino on the Las Vegas Strip.

But, last week, Morgans announced that it will contract with Sartini’s Golden Gaming to be the licensed operator of the Hard Rock’s casino. Also, Morgans will permit Golden Gaming to invest up to $100 million in the off-Strip project.

Since electing to leave his in-laws, the Fertitta Brothers and their Station Casinos Inc. (STN) operation (Sartini is married to the former Delise Fertitta), Sartini has continually grown his Golden Gaming company into an eclectic operation. His Golden Tavern Group includes 30 PT Entertainment locations; another division operates three casinos in Colorado, and a third division has a slots route with 200 locations offering 2,500 slot machines, the third largest slots route in Nevada.

Sartini is chairman and CEO of Golden Gaming Inc., still a privately-held company. Joining him on the executive staff are Rod Atamian, executive vice president and CFO and treasurer, and Steve Arcana, vice president of operations.

Morgans Hotel Group President Edward Scheetz said it was important for his company to arrange for an experienced casino management company to handle the gaming in order to expedite the Hard Rock acquisition that he expects to be completed in early 2007.

The purchase of the Hard Rock from owner Peter Morton for $770 million was announced in May.