Las Vegas Sun

November 16, 2018

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Ensign family cleared for takeover of Nevada casino

Red Garter Hotel and Casino in West Wendover

Click to enlarge photo

John Ensign

CARSON CITY – In an emergency meeting, the Nevada Gaming Commission cleared the way for members in the family of U.S. Sen. John Ensign to take over a casino in Northern Nevada that is to be sold at a foreclosure sale on Friday.

David A. Ensign, the half-brother of the senator, would hold 72.5 percent of the Red Garter Hotel and Casino in West Wendover. Jason Ensign would hold 3.4 percent and the Brett Ensign Gaming 2000 Trust would hold 3.4 percent. Generation 2000 Trust would have 20.6 percent of the holdings.

David Ensign is getting the loan of an undisclosed amount for the deal from his father, Michael Ensign. He already is operating one casino in Wendover and has held a state license for seven years. The Red Garter has 150 employees, or 3 percent of the workforce in the community, which is at the Utah state line on Interstate 80.

The commission and the state Gaming Control Board held the emergency meeting Thursday to keep the hotel-casino open while final details are worked out in the deal. “There are lots of uncertainties in the transaction,” David Ensign told the board.

Scott Scherer, an attorney for the Ensigns' interests, said the present operator, Hal Holder, has had difficulty paying bills.

The present landlords, the Simon family, have scheduled the foreclosure sale for 10 a.m. Friday.

Gaming Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander said the emergency meeting was scheduled in an effort to keep the hotel-casino open -- not because this was tied to the U.S. senator.

David Ensign said he intends to keep only 50 slot machines and replace the rest of the 250 slots. And he will probably spend $3 million to upgrade the property to meet local fire and safety codes.

“My biggest concern is keeping the property open,” he told the board. There are continuing talks to reach the final details of the takeover before the foreclosure sale.

Neilander said financing for the deal was adequate and the money is coming “from a suitable source” – the father. He recommended a license be limited to one year to see if business problems have been worked out.

The board and commission both agreed to the one-year limited license.

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