The transformation of Hard Rock Lake Tahoe into a Golden Nugget resort could be completed before the leaves change color in the fall.
The Gaming Control Board took less than 10 minutes Wednesday to recommend approval of the ownership change for the 539-room hotel-casino, the first casino visitors see along Highway 50 as they enter Stateline heading toward California.
Tilman Fertitta, whose Houston-based privately held Fertitta Entertainment operates six Golden Nugget casinos in downtown Las Vegas, Laughlin, Colorado, Louisiana, Mississippi and Atlantic City, told gaming regulators that he always liked the Tahoe market.
“We saw this as a great opportunity,” said Fertitta, who discussed the transaction with the control board remotely from his Houston office. “We will take this property and totally transform it. And, as we always do, add the Golden Nugget name on it. We always expect it to be one of the top properties in the market.”
Fertitta is acquiring the operations from Las Vegas-based Paragon Gaming, which licensed the Hard Rock name from Hard Rock International’s owner, the Seminole Indian Tribe of Florida. The property, built in the 1960s, has been known as Sahara Tahoe, High Sierra Resort and Lake Tahoe Horizon.
The resort sits on 24 acres adjacent to picturesque Lake Tahoe and across from Bally’s Lake Tahoe. It is one of four hotel-casinos in the South Lake Tahoe market.
Fertitta, who is a cousin of Red Rock Resorts CEO Frank Fertitta III and Vice Chairman Lorenzo Fertitta, said Hard Rock Lake Tahoe is a “cash customer business” and it will be taking customers who have credit at other Golden Nugget properties after the transition.
In addition to the Golden Nugget casinos, Fertitta Entertainment owns the NBA’s Houston Rockets, and the company’s Landry’s hospitality divisions include a restaurant segment with roughly 520 outlets and entertainment attractions. He said several of the company’s restaurant brands would be added to the property.
“When we go in, we basically touch every square foot of the casino and all that will happen over the next 24 months,” Fertitta said.
He told the control board the property would retain its current employees and look to add “about 30 percent to 40 percent” more workers.
“The Golden Nugget brand will be a welcome addition to the Lake Tahoe business community,” said board Chairman Kirk Hendrick.