In May, Louisiana casino revenue rose by 19.3 percent to 9 million, making it the best month since casinos became legal in 1991. Regulators give much of the credit to the eight-month old, 0 million Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino. Ronnie Jones, chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, said, the Nugget has “far surpassed our expectations. The market’s on fire.”
William Hornbuckle, president of MGM Resorts, the Nugget’s competitor in Vegas and Biloxi, said, “They have proven in Lake Charles that you can grow the market, if you build a product of substantial value and make it attractive.”
Matt Sodl, an investment banker at Innovation Capital in Los Angeles added, “Tilman’s doing something really interesting out there. There’s no regional casino operator that is close to doing what he has done.”
The Nugget is part of a chain owned by Houston billionaire Tilman Fertitta, who said the regional casino is “a first-class product for the everyman. You don’t have to go to Vegas anymore. It’s that nice.”
Fertitta bought the 69-year-old Golden Nugget in Vegas and its sister in Laughlin, Nevada, in 2005. With the purchase of the Trump Marina Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City in 2011 and an Isle of Capri property in Biloxi in 2012—and investing $300 million to upgrade and rebrand them–he now has five locations. And he has plans for more casinos. “Obviously we’re building a big gaming company,” Fertitta said.
In addition, Fertitta turned Landry’s steakhouses into a global chain, and also owns the Rainforest Café, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse and the Claim Jumper, all of which are located in the Nugget Lake Charles. The property also offers, besides the gaming floor, the Blue Martini Bar with 42 flavors, high-end boutiques, buffet, RV parking and a pool with a waterfall, slides, lazy river, swim-up bar and mid-water daybeds.
Pinnacle Entertainment ‘s L’Auberge, located next door to the Nugget, and the Isle Casino have benefited from the Nugget’s average of 353,000 visitors a month. A boardwalk connects the Nugget and L’Auberge. General Manager Keith Henson said L’Auberge is attracting a younger demographic, and its casino-hotel’s sales were up 0.4 percent in the first five months of the year. Isle of Capri sales rose 2.9 percent.