Golden Nugget Online Wins New Jersey Approval for Landcadia SPAC Marriage

Posted on: November 25, 2020, 12:39h. 

Last updated on: November 25, 2020, 01:30h.

The New Jersey Casino Control Commission (CCC) Wednesday approved a license for Tilman Fertitta’s Golden Nugget Online Gaming (GNOG). It’s a move that will allow the internet casino operator to merge with a blank-check company and become a publicly traded entity.

Golden Nugget
Tilman Fertitta seen here at the White House in May. His Golden Nugget Online Gaming won regulatory approval to go public. (Image: Associated Press)

In late June, Landcadia Holdings II, Inc. (NASDAQ:LCA), a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) co-owned by Fertitta and investment bank Jefferies, announced plans to acquire GNOG. That gave the iGaming company an avenue to list on a major US exchange, plus a monetization outlet. At that time, the plan was to list the online casino operator on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange under the ticker “GNh OG” in the third quarter. But that didn’t happen.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) must still sign off on the Landcadia/Golden Nugget combination. But that agency doesn’t have a history of rejecting SPAC deals regardless of industry.

The official date for the conversion of Landcadia to Golden Nugget Online and the debut of GNOG wasn’t revealed following the CCC decision. But news of the approval was enough to spark a major rally in the SPAC’s shares, sending the name higher by 8.34 percent in late trading on volume that’s more than quadruple the daily average.

Going Through the Motions

CCC approval for the GNOG transaction wasn’t in doubt. The company has been operating in the Garden State since 2013 as a unit of Fertitta’s Golden Nugget. The company owns five land-based casinos under that brand across the country, including one on the Atlantic City Boardwalk.

GNOG became profitable in 2016 and generated net income of $11 million on revenue $177 million in 2019. Underscoring the rapid growth of iGaming in New Jersey and around the US, the online operator’s 2019 revenue was just $22 million shy of the figure posted by the land-based Golden Nugget Atlantic City.

This year, Boardwalk operators are grappling with the coronavirus pandemic. They are enduring a March through July shutdown, and more recently, new operating restrictions imposed by Gov. Phil Murphy following a spike in COVID-19 cases.

However, the pandemic isn’t denting demand for gambling. Through the first 10 months of 2020, GNOG notched revenue of $263 million.

GNOG Growth

In New Jersey, GNOG holds dominant positioning in the burgeoning internet casino market. But analysts and investor enthusiasm for online gaming equities is derived largely from expectations that more states will approve the activity along with sports wagering.

To that end, it’s vital for operators such as GNOG to gain licenses in as many states as possible. On Monday, the company said it’s entering into an agreement with Greenbrier Hotel Corp. for access to the West Virginia market.

The definitive agreement grants GNOG the right to offer mobile sports and online casino wagering under The Greenbrier’s licenses, subject to GNOG obtaining regulatory approvals, and requires GNOG to pay The Greenbrier a percentage of its online net gaming revenue, subject to minimum royalty payments over the term,” according to a statement.

Previously, Landcadia said GNOG will enter Michigan and Pennsylvania next year.

Upon its Nasdaq debut, Golden Nugget Online will be just the second publicly traded pure play online gaming company in the US, joining DraftKings (NASDAQ:DKNG) in that distinction.