Tilman Fertitta’s Golden Nugget Lands Illinois Casino, Betting Deal

Billionaire businessman Tilman Fertitta is bringing the Golden Nugget brand to Illinois as the state’s gambling market is in the middle of its biggest transformation in many years.

Golden Nugget Online Gaming (GNOG), an online gambling company that is part of Mr. Fetitta’s gaming and hospitality empire, announced Thursday that it has teamed up with Danville Development to gain access to Illinois’ nascent online sports betting market. The deal will also enable GNOG to offer online casino gaming, should the practice become legal in the state.

Under the terms of the agreement, Golden Nugget is set to form a joint venture with Wilmot Gaming Illinois to build a new land-based casino in the east-central Illinois town of Danville. The casino will be branded Golden Nugget and will feature a Landry’s restaurant.

Wilmot Gaming Illinois is a subsidiary of New York-based development firm Wilmorite Management Group. The company was selected as the preferred developer of a casino in Danville earlier this year. It will build the property through the Danville Development entity, which will now be a joint venture between Wilmot and GN Danville, a wholly owned Golden Nugget subsidiary.

A sweeping gambling reform signed off by Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker in the summer of 2019 allowed for the development of up to six new casinos in the state, including one in Danville. The legislation also authorized retail and digital sports betting in Illinois.

Golden Nugget’s Illinois Expansion

As part of its agreement, GNOG will offer exclusively online sports betting with Danville’s future casino. And if online gaming becomes legal in Illinois, Golden Nugget’s subsidiary will offer exclusively digital casino products on behalf of the gambling venue.

GNOG has additionally agreed to provide a mezzanine loan of $30 million to Danville Development for the construction of the Danville casino. The online gambling company’s Illinois market access agreement has a 20-year term and requires GNOG to share a percentage of its revenue with Danville Development.

The Illinois sports betting and online gaming deal is an important milestone for GNOG as part of the company’s growth strategy. Earlier this year, it became the latest US-based digital gambling company to announce a SPAC merger in pursuit of further growth opportunities.

GNOG is set to soon merge with special purpose acquisition company Landcadia Holdings II and go public on NASDAQ, avoiding the much more complex IPO journey.

Commenting on their entry into the Illinois market, Golden Nugget and GNOG CEO Tilman Fertitta said that “having the opportunity to grow the Golden Nugget brand in Illinois in both the online and land-based markets is an exciting opportunity.” This is Golden Nugget’s first joint venture on a casino project.

GNOG President Thomas Winter added that they are thrilled to have secured market access in Illinois, which is the fifth most populous US state and the largest one to have legalized mobile betting. Mr. Winter pointed out that this is “a tremendous opportunity” for GNOG to further grow its US footprint and “deliver on our ambitious growth plan.”

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