Deal to close early 2023

Century eyeing potential flagship resort in Sparks' Nugget Casino acquisition; open to other Nevada opportunities

Nugget Casino Resort in Sparks.
Reading time 3:06 min

As it eyes the completion of its pending $195 million acquisition of the Nugget Casino Resort in Sparks, operator Century Casinos prepares to embrace a new phase of its development as a company. The property is set to provide the business with an opportunity to prove its expertise in the long-sought destination market of Nevada, and executives have hinted it could become the company’s new flagship casino in the country.

“If you’re a gaming company, wouldn’t you want to be in Nevada?” Century Executive Vice President Andreas Terler, who oversees the company’s U.S operations, told The Nevada Independent in a recent interview. “It’s basically been a dream for us and we’ve been looking for the right opportunity.”

According to the executive, the company has never operated a casino that has so much non-gaming revenue, and the Northern Nevada market has “a lot of potential.” The regional operator, which began in Europe, first started expanding in the US through Colorado –operating two gaming facilities in the historic Colorado mining communities of Central City and Cripple Creek– but the Nugget Casino acquisition is set to bring its plans for the country to a new level.

The firm doesn’t have what gaming observers consider a flagship US resort yet, notes the cited source. The company, which went public in 1994, has historically focused its growth internationally, including operations in Alberta, Canada, and Poland. But the Nugget has the potential to fill that role and bring new scope to its business in the US: it has 1,382 hotel rooms, more than triple the combined rooms Century has in its current portfolio in the country.

According to reports, the property could account for an estimated 20% of Century’s total annual cash flow once the sale closes early next year. Terler has told The Independent the company intends to keep the venue’s management team on board. The company is buying the operations of the Nugget for $100 million, and paying $95 million for 50% ownership of the real estate, with a five-year option to purchase the remaining 50% of the site.

As larger regional operators now focus on paying down debt on their balance sheets and expanding to digital gaming activities, Century sees an opportunity to grow in the US, which the company first accelerated in 2019, buying the operations of the Mountaineer Casino in West Virginia and two Missouri riverboat casinos in Cape Girardeau and Caruthersville. And this year, the company took yet another step by acquiring the Rocky Gap Casino Resort in Maryland.

The definitive agreement to acquire the operations of Rocky Gap was first announced last month: the business will be taking over the operations for about $56 million, while real estate investment trust VICI Properties will pay $203 million for the land and buildings. Century is then set to pay VICI $15.5 million per year through a lease agreement to manage the property. That deal is expected to close in mid-2023, following the closure of the Nugget transaction.

“The addition of Rocky Gap is another important milestone in our pursuit to acquire prime US assets. With this acquisition and our pending acquisition of the Nugget Casino Resort in Nevada, we will oversee a US portfolio that reaches from east to west,” Erwin Haitzmann and Peter Hoetzinger, Co-Chief Executive Officers of Century Casinos, remarked last month. 

Terler suggested that the Nugget will be the company’s new flagship hotel-casino, the cited source says. Under the management of current owner Marnell Gaming, the property received upgrades to its management systems, hotel room renovations and construction of an 8,500-seat outdoor events center adjacent to the resort. When Century takes over the casino, there won’t be much investment needed to be done.

In addition to benefitting from a property in good shape, the company expects to capitalize on the economic resurgence of Northern Nevada, which has seen technology and manufacturing companies move into the area. Additionally, Reno’s population has grown by about 15% between 2010 and 2020, double from the national average. It will be the company’s first venture into Nevada, although perhaps not the last one as the company eyes other opportunities there.

However, while Century explores new options in the Silver State, Terler told The Nevada Independent that Las Vegas is out of its plans for the immediate future, instead opting to be “conservative and cautious” in its approach. “Las Vegas is in a different category. Let’s say that's a long-term goal,” he noted. As for now, its plans already point to an expanding portfolio – one which could even see its first flagship resort in the Nugget.

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