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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Casino deal makes Barrick a high-roller

By Adam Goldman
Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — Barrick Gaming Corp. said yesterday that it is buying four downtown Las Vegas casinos-hotels for about $82 million.

With the purchase, the relative unknown in the gambling industry is alerting competitors that it has arrived, a company official said.

Las Vegas-based Barrick signed the deal Friday to buy the Plaza, Las Vegas Club, Western and Gold Spike hotel-casinos from organizations headed by longtime casino operator Jackie Gaughan and the late Mel Exber.

The deal includes the properties' 1,850 rooms and 35 acres of downtown land, two other downtown motels and property and an option to purchase the El Cortez Hotel and Casino.

Bruce Leslie, a lawyer representing Gaughan's and Exber's companies, said it took about a year to cement the complicated agreement that involved three owners. The properties were sold by Union Plaza Hotel and Casino Inc., Exber Inc., and Gaughan South.

"Mr. Gaughan is 82 years old and Barrick offered a fair price," he said. Leslie said Barrick agreed not to lay off any of the casinos' 1,904 employees.

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman said he hopes the parties successfully conclude the ambitious sale. "They are talking about expanding the job base," he said.

"I'm tempering my optimism," the mayor said. "It's a long way before the deal is consummated. They are biting off an awful lot. I hope someday they'll have the opportunity to chew on it."

Leslie said Barrick still needs to put all its financing together and obtain a gambling license from the state. He said it could be 18 months before the properties change hands. Leslie said the sale gives Barrick flexibility to do something big in downtown Las Vegas. "It gives them a lot of development opportunities," he said. "They will have a large impact on downtown and the shape of the future of downtown."

Phil Flaherty, Barrick Gaming's chief gambling officer, declined to detail his firm's plans. "We want to score the dollars first," he said.