Upgrades promised at Sparks Nugget

Upgrades promised at Sparks NuggetMarnell Gaming has received Nevada Gaming Control Board’s approval to acquire the Nugget casino in Sparks.

The Board unanimously approved Marnell’s planned purchase of the Nugget for an undisclosed sum, a transaction that was first announced in February. The Nevada Gaming Commission is expected to approve the deal later this month.

Action by the GCB came a day after federal officials announced a $1 million civil penalty against Sparks Nugget Inc., the entity that had previously sold the casino in 2013. Sparks Nugget was hit with the fine from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network for “egregiously and willfully” violating anti-money laundering requirements.

Marnell Gaming CEO Anthony Marnell III addressed those problems, telling board members in Carson City that such issues “will never happen” under his watch. Marnell said his company had reached out to a former control board chairman to help with its efforts to comply with anti-money-laundering laws.

Board Member Terry Johnson later thanked Marnell for his assurances, saying it seemed like the new ownership was approaching anti-money-laundering compliance with a “high degree of seriousness.”

Marnell used to be president of Henderson’s M Resort, which he opened in 2009. He stepped out of that role last year after the M’s owner, Penn National Gaming Inc., bought the Tropicana and appointed a new executive to oversee both properties.

Once his company takes over the Nugget, Marnell indicated that it plans to make some significant improvements.

“The property is in desperate need of capital. There’s an opportunity to improve the operations of the business substantially,” He told the Board.

Marnell’s company plans to invest about $25 million over the next 18 to 24 months, he said, as it implements new player tracking technology and slot machines, among other changes. He said Marnell Gaming also plans to remodel the Nugget’s west hotel tower and overhaul the convention center.

Phil Hevener has been writing about the Nevada gaming business for more than 30 years. Email: .

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