Friday, April 19, 1996 | 11:59 a.m.
Ameristar Casinos, which operates two Northern Nevada casinos and gaming resorts in two other states, has stalked the Southern Nevada market and bagged a casino with an African safari theme.
Craig Neilsen, Ameristar's president and CEO, said Wednesday his company has entered into a letter of intent to merge with Gem Gaming Co., which currently is building the Reserve hotel-casino in Henderson.
"This is a major milestone for the shareholders of Ameristar and Gem," Neilsen said. "The merger will enhance shareholder value and allow Ameristar to continue its constant, steady growth by expanding into the largest gaming market in the country."
Ameristar, a publicly traded company on Nasdaq with the trading symbol ASCA and a gaming background dating back to 1954, owns Cactus Pete's and the Horseshu in Jackpot, Ameristar Casino in Vicksburg, Miss., and Ameristar Casino Council Bluffs in Iowa.
The Reserve, a major resort to be built in Henderson, is scheduled to open in October 1996, initially with 225 rooms, 1,000 slot machines and 35 gaming tables.
Ameristar officials say the merger will enable expansion to begin immediately, increasing the number of rooms to 500, expanding the casino area to 50,000 square feet and expediting the construction of a 500-seat buffet.
Eventually, the resort will feature 1,500 rooms, 2,000 slot machines, 75 gaming tables, restaurants, meeting and convention rooms and recreational amenities, Neilsen said.
The deal, subject to shareholder and regulatory agencies approval, calls for Ameristar to exchange 7.5 million shares of common stock for the hotel-casino, which then will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Ameristar.
The Reserve, to be built on 55 acres at the southeast corner of U.S. 95 and Lake Mead Drive, will target locals as well as interstate travelers from Arizona and Californians en route to Lake Mead.
The resort will resemble a big-game hunting reserve, complete with a grand palace, an old world fortress built with hand-carved rock from surrounding mountains and statues of elephants and other jungle animals.
The senior officers of Gem Gaming, a privately held firm, will join the Ameristar management team, including real estate developer Steven Rebeil, current CEO of Gem, who will become a vice president and member of the Ameristar board of directors, Ameristar officials said.