Gambling

New Jersey Approves GNOG Gaming License and Merger

Golden Nugget Online Gaming is closer to going public now that the New Jersey Casino Control Commission has granted it an internet gaming license and approved its merger. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Commission concerned about NJ casino

The New Jersey Casino Control Commission has granted Golden Nugget Online Gaming, LLC (GNOG) an internet gaming license and conditionally approved its acquisition by Landcadia Holdings II Inc. The acquisition will lead to GNOG becoming a publicly traded company. Federal regulators must still approve the deal.

worried that GNOG splitting off from GNAC would hurt the Atlantic City brick-and-mortar casino

In a two-plus hour hearing Wednesday, Richard Liem, vice president and treasurer of Golden Nugget Atlantic City (GNAC), and Thomas Winter, the company’s senior vice president and general manager of online gaming, fielded questions from the commissioners. Dylan Thompson of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement voiced the primary concern, saying he was worried that GNOG splitting off from GNAC would hurt the Atlantic City brick-and-mortar casino. GNOG has been very successful, helping prop up the casino during the COVID-19 pandemic. He recommended conditions to be sure that GNOG couldn’t just leave the land-based business twisting in the wind, conditions with which the Commission agreed.

Much of the questioning revolved around making sure that Golden Nugget’s business in New Jersey wouldn’t suffer as GNOG ventured out into Pennsylvania and Michigan, particularly because Winter did not expect profitability in those states for a while. Winter assured the commissioners that not only would New Jersey employees not be affected negatively, but as long as the others states allowed it, Golden Nugget would add employees in the Garden State to handle many of the customer service and financial operations from out-of-state.

Liem also explained that all of Golden Nugget’s businesses are ultimately under one umbrella, owned by Tillman Fertitta. Fertitta, he said, is committed to the success of all parts of the business; if Golden Nugget Atlantic City fails, it is because the entire company fails.

Going public to raise capital

The entire point of the acquisition by Landcadia is to take Golden Nugget Online Gaming public. Landcadia is a publicly traded “special purpose acquisition company” (SPAC), also called a “blank check” company. Its purpose is to attract investors so that it can eventually buy a company and take it public.

Once the deal is completed, Landcadia Holdings II will change its name to Golden Nugget Online Gaming and its ticker symbol to GNOG.

Landcadia was founded by Jefferies Financial Group Inc. and Fertitta Entertainment, Inc., the latter of which is the holding company that owns Tilman Fertitta’s businesses. Fertitta will have 79.9% of the new company’s voting power and will own over half the company.

Liem told the Commission that Landcadia was not originally created to buy GNOG, but rather just to find a good company to acquire. But when DraftKings went public in a similar manner, a light bulb went off and the Landcadia/Golden Nugget brass realized it could work for them, as well. When asked, Liem said that the benefit for GNOG of being a publicly traded company is access to capital, as the startup costs to launch in other states are significant.

GNOG taking act on the road

As mentioned, GNOG’s expansion into Michigan and Pennsylvania was brought up throughout the hearing. In fact, Winter said that Michigan online gaming is just “weeks away” from launch. But Golden Nugget’s sights are set on much more than just those two states.

This week, Golden Nugget Online Gaming announced a partnership with The Greenbrier Hotel Corporation to offer mobile sports betting and online casino gaming in West Virginia. In exchange for being table to take advantage of The Greenbrier’s gaming license, GNOG will give the company a percentage of its online net gaming revenue.

Last week, GNOG announced that it entered into a joint venture to build a physical casino in Danville, Illinois. It will then use its presence in Illinois to launch online sports betting in the state, with an eye on online casino gaming down the road if it gets legalized.

 

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