The Hottest CEO in Vegas Just Bought the City’s Strangest Casino – Bloomberg

The Hottest CEO in Vegas Just Bought the City’s Strangest Casino – Bloomberg

Even in Las Vegas, the land of faux pirate battles and Elvis-themed wedding chapels, the Stratosphere is something of an oddball.

Conceived by poker pro Bob Stupak, the Space Needle-shaped hotel-casino featured a roller coaster and other attractions at its summit when it opened in 1996. Its location on the lightly trafficked north end of the Strip proved too much of a handicap, however, and the casino declared bankruptcy months after its debut. It remained open, and for awhile it was owned by Carl Icahn.

Two decades later, the Stratosphere is providing a thrill ride of sorts for shareholders of Golden Entertainment Inc., the Las Vegas-based casino owner that bought the property and three others last month from a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. real estate fund. Since the $850 million deal was announced in June, Golden shares have risen 56 percent on hopes that Chief Executive Officer Blake Sartini can apply the same magic at Stratosphere that he did with Golden’s main business—operating slot machines in convenience stores, bars and other locations.

In 2001, Sartini decided he wanted to go out on his own. He convinced his brothers-in-law, Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, to sell him the company’s slot machine routes, which serviced 900 machines in the Las Vegas area, for $14 million. Delise Fertitta cashed out her stake in Station when the company, now called Red Rock Resorts Inc., went private in a 2007 buyout.


Still, it will be Stratosphere that most investors focus on. “It was a transformative transaction for them,” said John Decree, an analyst at Union Gaming in Las Vegas. “It’s now on the radar of a lot institutional investors.”


Sartini began applying tools of the traditional casino business to what he calls “distributed” gambling, such as offering frequent-player cards that reward returning customers. He began buying or opening pubs with slot machines for Las Vegas residents in a sort of hyper-local version of what Station had been doing. Unlike most casinos, where slot players are older, 73 percent of Golden’s gaming revenue in the bars comes from players age 55 or younger.



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Started working in the Casino Industry in 1985, just never managed to leave as yet. Visited 99% of all UK Casinos, seen them all,

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