Las Vegas-based PlayStudios deal with Murren-led company follows slot machine industry growth pattern

Arriving late to the party oftentimes has benefits.

Just ask Jim Murren.

PlayStudios CEO Andrew Pascal was well into the process last fall of taking the Las Vegas-based social gaming provider public through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). PlayStudios’ financial advisors, J.P. Morgan and LionTree Advisors, had identified several candidates. SPACs, which are also known as blank-check companies, are publicly traded shell vehicles used to take another company public.

Murren, the former CEO of MGM Resorts International, considered PlayStudios a potential candidate for Acies Acquisition Corp., a SPAC he created with two former Morgan Stanley executives.

Social gaming is one of three gaming industry niche sectors, along with live entertainment and online gaming/sports betting, where he believes there is exceptional growth potential.

“We got ourselves inserted into a very competitive process,” Murren said. “[Social gaming] is so much larger than the casino gaming market. It’s a global market with far less friction in terms of the ability to acquire customers.”

Murren and his team may have landed late, but his personal and professional relationship with Pascal and his first-hand knowledge of PlayStudios changed the course. The company has long held the exclusive social gaming and mobile platform rights to casino properties operated by MGM Resorts.

“We had a great collection of interested parties and we were very far down in the process when Jim expressed interest, “Pascal said. “They had a lot of work to do to catch up and be considered. But we felt they were the right partner and the best outcome.”

Murren, 59, and Pascal, 54, share a similar vision: growing PlayStudios into a larger presence in the social gaming sector. By becoming a public company, PlayStudios will have the funds to acquire other game developers or license new products that would be added to the company’s expanding game library.

Screen shot of myVegas Strip home page for customers of MGM Grand Las Vegas. (Photo courtesy PlayStudios)

It’s a similar approach followed by Nevada’s slot machine industry, which Pascal noted was a “fair observation.”

He founded Silicon Games in the late 1990s and developed slot machines that made their way onto casino floors in Nevada and other states. He sold the company to IGT in 2001.

“We see a lot of opportunities to partner up with really great game makers that have great products that might be under-resourced,” Pascal said of potential mergers and acquisitions activity. “Even existing companies that are chasing scale and are looking to really invigorate their products, we are looking to bring our whole model there and partner up with them.”

Prior to creating PlayStudios in 2011, Pascal served as president of Wynn Resorts’ two Las Vegas properties, Wynn Las Vegas and Encore. His aunt is Elaine Wynn, the largest stockholder in Wynn Resorts. 

The company has moved to the social gaming forefront, offering the platform’s more than 4.2 million users “real world rewards” that are earned for points and game play.

“We have a proven model, platform and tool and now we’re ready to scale it,” Pascal said.

According to PlayStudios’ investor presentation, customers spend an average of 56 minutes a day playing games on the platform, often paying nominal fees for virtual tokens or other game enhancements. In addition to casino games through the myVegas platform, PlayStudios offers a large library of casual video games in the brain and puzzle, adventure, arcade, simulator and role-playing categories.

The rewards are provided by more than 80 partners and 275 entertainment, retail, travel, leisure and gaming brands. To date, PlayStudios users have collected in-app loyalty points to purchase more than 10 million rewards with a retail value of nearly $500 million.

In addition to its Las Vegas headquarters in Summerlin, PlayStudios has offices and design studios in Burlingame, California; Austin, Texas; Hong Kong; and Tel Aviv, Israel.

Gaming analyst Adam Krejcik, a partner in the advisory firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, said PlayStudios has some “unique and differentiating attributes,” but cautions that social gaming is an extremely competitive business.

“Everyone seems to have the same playbook strategy; raise money to pursue strategic (mergers and acquisitions), and do so even after going public,” Krejcik said. “I think executing on (mergers and acquisitions) is going to be very difficult, not just for PlayStudios, but everyone in the industry.”

The deal

Growing and expanding PlayStudios was at the center of the Feb. 1 announcement that several institutional investors – including MGM Resorts – are providing private investment of $250 million. Acies is contributing 89.1 million shares of the SPAC’s stock and up to $150 million in cash.

PlayStudios will emerge as a publicly traded company on the Nasdaq by the end of the second quarter.

The transaction valued PlayStudios at $1.1 billion based on two-and-a-half-times the company’s projected 2022 revenue of $435 million. The company said its expected revenues in 2020 will exceed $270 million.

PlayStudios shareholders will own 64 percent of the company and the institutional investors will own a combined 18 percent. Murren and the Acies sponsors will own 3 percent, and 15 percent of the company will be available on the open market.

Murren said he will become an “active shareholder” in PlayStudios, providing Pascal and his team “everything I can to ensure success.”

Murren, who led MGM Resorts casino expansion on the Strip and throughout the U.S. during his tenure as CEO that began in 2008, credited company founder Kirk Kerkorian with one of the reasons he was drawn to PlayStudios and Pascal.

“Mr. Kerkorian taught me to bet on people and I made a big bet on Andrew and his management team,” Murren said. “I love the space and it was exciting that Andrew was willing to engage and put us in the mix.”

He and Pascal have been acquainted personally and professionally for more than two decades. Both men are involved in helping Nevada deal with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Murren heads the state’s COVID-19 Response, Relief and Recovery Task Force that secured personal protective equipment, medical supplies and testing kits for the state. 

Pascal and members of his PlayStudios team collaborated in the development of COVID Trace, a digital contact tracing app designed to slow the spread of coronavirus. COVID Trace is positioned to become the most effective exposure notification solution in the U.S. and a model for other states working to control the spread of the virus.

SPACs and the gaming industry

Sports betting operator DraftKings went public in April through a merger with Diamond Eagle Acquisition Corp. in one of the gaming industry’s more high-profile SPAC deals. The company’s stock price soared 10 percent above the initial projections in its first day of trading.

Since then, Golden Nugget online gaming, Rush Street Interactive and Genius Sports signed on to SPAC deals. Previously, slot machine developer Inspired Gaming and Illinois video gaming terminal provider Acel Entertainment went public through SPACs.

“I'd expect an increasing number of companies, including those with exposure to the U.S. online gambling opportunity, to seriously examine taking the SPAC route to public markets,” said Chris Grove, an analyst for Eilers and Krejcik Gaming.

The same day the PlayStudios deal was announced, Houston billionaire Tilman Fertitta announced a $6.6 billion SPAC transaction with Fast Acquisition Corp., to put his Landry’s restaurant chain and five Golden Nugget casinos – including the Golden Nuggets in downtown and Laughlin – into the public market.

Competition in the social gaming space

The worldwide social gaming space is crowded with traditional gambling companies and non-casino providers such as Zynga. DoubleU Games, which was sold by IGT, offers free non-monetary versions of real money gambling through DoubleDown Casino.

Australia-based Aristocrat and its Las Vegas-based subsidiary Aristocrat Technologies operate a social games division through the wholly owned Big Fish Games.

In 2019, slot machine developer Scientific Games spun off its social games division into SciPlay, a separate public company traded on the Nasdaq. The Las Vegas-based gaming equipment provider maintained a 17 percent ownership stake in the new company.

Israel-based Playtika, a developer of mobile games including social casino titles such as Slotomania and WSOP, was acquired by Caesars Entertainment in 2011. It operated as an independent division under Caesars Interactive until it was sold for $4.4 billion in 2016 to a group of Chinese investors, that included a private equity firm founded by Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma.

In January, the owners took Playtika public on the Nasdaq in an $11 billion deal.

Upping its presence

During the COVID-19 pandemic when stay at home orders were issued, PlayStudios launched an advertising campaign in Las Vegas and Denver dubbed In Is The New Out, which followed a young couple practicing social distancing at home and includes them playing the myVegas slot games for entertainment.

Pascal said at the time the MGM partnership allowed the company’s customers to play slot and table games in a virtual Las Vegas setting. With casinos closed, the games on myVegas, including myVegas Blackjack, offered MGM Resorts a way to maintain its presence with customers.

PlayStudios struck a partnership with Konami Gaming for KonamiSlots. In 2016, PlayStudios acquired Tel Aviv-based game studio Scene53 and launched its Pop! Slots mobile app.

Howard Stutz is a freelance gaming reporter for The Nevada Independent and the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He has been a Nevada journalist for 30 years. He can be reached at howardmstutz@gmail.com. On Twitter: @howardstutz

A gambler at heart: Derek Stevens opening first all-new resort in four decades in downtown Las Vegas

Las Vegas casino owner Derek Stevens gained a reputation for high-stakes sports wagers and a hands-on operating style that evokes memories of the Glitter Gulch gambling proprietors of a bygone era.

But Stevens credited his father, a retired architect from Michigan who is conservative by nature, with planting the seed for the biggest bet taken on downtown Las Vegas in 40 years.

On Wednesday, Stevens opens Circa Resort Casino at the corner of Main Street and the Fremont Street Experience. The project, the first all-new built-from-the-ground-up hotel-casino in downtown since 1980, will be unveiled more than two months ahead of schedule.

Circa Resort & Casino in downtown Las Vegas. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Circa encompasses a full city block – 2.78 acres – with a striking 44-story hotel structure that is second only to the Strat Tower in height among downtown buildings.

Stevens is opening the casino and its three-level sportsbook, restaurants, massive roof-top swimming pool attraction and other public portions just after midnight. He’s holding back on the initial 512 hotel rooms until late December.

In true gambler’s style, he’s wagering that interest in Circa will be a welcome relief in the face of a global pandemic that has diminished visitation to Las Vegas and led many analysts to predict a lengthy financial recovery that could leave scars until 2024.

Circa is the first Las Vegas resort that requires guests to be age 21 and over, a move Stevens said will enhance the guest experience.

A Detroit native, Stevens, 53, has been enamored with Las Vegas since the 1980s when he first visited the Rat Pack-era Dunes on the Strip while on a break from his studies as a University of Michigan student.

He has been active in downtown Las Vegas since 2006. Stevens, in partnership with his brother Greg, owns the Golden Gate and the D Las Vegas. Coincidentally, the D was the last all-new downtown casino when it opened in 1980 as the Sundance.

In 2013, Stevens acquired the shuttered Clark County Courthouse for $10 million and converted the nearly 3-acre site into an outdoor events venue. He also owned the Las Vegas 51s (now Las Vegas Aviators) for four years, selling the minor league baseball team to Howard Hughes Corp. for $20 million in 2013.

Stevens’ Circa Sports operates sports betting at all his casinos and will take over the sportsbook at the off-Strip Tuscany early next year. Circa Sports launched its first location outside Nevada this summer in Colorado.

Circa Resort & Casino's three-story sportsbook can seat 1,000 people. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Stevens views Circa name and theme as the “accumulation” of his personal Las Vegas moments: winning his first $20 wager at the Dunes, his initial impression of the Las Vegas Hilton Superbook and the first time he walked through The Mirage atrium.

It was early in Circa’s development process that his father John Stevens suggested his son not hold back on the design when conceptualizing plans for the site. He told Derek to go big on the parcel, calling the site “the most valuable piece of real estate outside Times Square.”

Derek Stevens said he took his father’s advice to heart.

“He saw the city block as one of the most important pieces of land in Las Vegas,” Stevens recalled during an hour-long interview with The Nevada Independent. “He told me to think about how many people alone will be walking in front of one side of this property.”

The name Circa, which Stevens announced in January 2019 to a packed audience at his Downtown Events Center following Mayor Carolyn Goodman’s State of the City address, symbolizes the history of the Las Vegas casino business leading up to the 21st century gaming industry.

The focal points in the 1.25 million square foot resort include the race and sportsbook with a three-story multiple screen television and a studio for VSiN, a Las Vegas-based sports betting network. Stadium Swim is the fifth-floor pool deck that will operate year-round with six temperature-controlled pools and two spas. The space includes a 14-million-pixel television screen to show live sports and special events. Stevens expects upward of 4,000 customers a day paying the entrance fee to the attraction.

Circa Resort & Casino's Stadium Swim has a 40-foot-tall high-definition screen, six pools and can accommodate 4,000 people. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Taking dad’s advice into account, Circa has an outdoor bar area spanning much of the frontage along the Fremont Street Experience.

“In a crazy year like 2020, this is a positive,” Stevens said. “We want to make sure when people visit, from anywhere in the world, that they have that ‘wow’ moment.” Circa’s rooftop Legacy Club offers guests “the opportunity to see the city of Las Vegas, downtown, and the Strip light up before your eyes.”

Last month, Stevens launched a nationwide television campaign for Circa during the Major League Baseball playoffs. He narrated the 30-second advertisement and appears at the end, gazing up toward Circa’s tower from his car window. The message was both an introduction of the resort and a tribute to the allure and mystique of Las Vegas.

A welcome addition

His downtown neighbors don’t view Circa as competition, but an attraction that will bring more visitors to the market. Downtown casinos reported their highest 12-month gaming figures in 26 years in 2019 before the pandemic crushed their businesses.

As part of the development, Stevens acquired a vacant parcel on Main Street from Boyd Gaming, directly across from the Circa site. It is now home to Garage Mahal, a 982-space parking facility and will also serve as a rideshare hub for downtown. The garage is connected to the resort via an above-ground pedestrian bridge.

“From our viewpoint, any long-term investment in downtown benefits the city, other operators, and by default, Boyd,” said Steve Thompson, who oversees Boyd’s three downtown casinos and has worked in the market since 1985. “One of the benefits is that our properties are only 60 to 90 feet from your neighbors. It gives guests a variety of options.”

Plaza CEO Jonathan Jossel has watched Circa rise across Main Street since the Las Vegas Club was demolished a few years ago. He said the new resort is a “downtown game changer” that will help the area’s economic recovery.

Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority CEO Steve Hill said the opening is a positive declaration for a market still dealing with COVID-19 business restrictions. Hill said Circa is good for downtown and will present upbeat messages for Las Vegas and the tourism industry’s recovery.

“This kind of event is important during this environment and makes a great statement about Las Vegas,” Hill said.

Saginaw's, a 24-hour delicatessen from Ann Arbor, Michigan, opened its first Las Vegas restaurant inside Circa Resort & Casino. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Circa financing

Stevens, who operates privately held businesses, has never revealed a price for Circa.

The land acquisitions were completed with other privately held entities. The acquisition of the Garage Mahal land from Boyd – a public company – was not material enough for Boyd to report the transaction, said a company spokesman.

During his Nevada licensing proceedings, the cost was revealed to regulators, but remained confidential.

Stevens’ chief financial officer, Susan Hitch, said Circa, D Las Vegas, and Golden Gate are all part of the collateral package for the construction loans and will help service the debt. A six-month cushion has been built into the company’s reserves.

“We will outperform the numbers projected for our lending proposal,” Stevens told the Gaming Control Board on Sept. 9. “We will significantly outperform the numbers in our loan agreement.”

To be on the safe side, Stevens is holding back seven floors in Circa’s planned 777-room hotel tower for at least a year in order to determine the best use for the space.

The challenge for Stevens in obtaining the financing was convincing analysts that downtown Las Vegas was a good bet. Financial comparisons on the Strip were easy because of the multiple developments by public companies. In downtown, Golden Nugget owner Tilman Fertitta built a hotel tower addition with his own money while the Downtown Grand expansions were privately financed.

“Because there is not a lot of public debt downtown, none of the analysts really paid attention,” Stevens said.

But the proof was in the numbers – $684.9 million in pre-tax gaming win in 2019 – and visitors statistics reported by the LVCVA, especially the figure showing 54 percent of all Las Vegas visitors spend part of their trip downtown.

Stevens also had another ace up his sleeve: A database of active customers for D Las Vegas and Golden Gate that is pushing 6 million.

“We spent a long time educating (the analysts) on what we were doing and how we bring people down here,” Stevens said. “Nowadays, it’s tough to open anything without a database.”

The value in the land

Stevens, who is still CEO of his privately held Michigan-based auto parts company, began investing in gaming in the 1990s. His initial purchases included stock in slot machine maker International Game Technology (IGT) and an investment in the privately held Rio Casino Resort, long before its purchase by Caesars Entertainment.

“Some of the investments were small companies people hadn’t heard of,” he said.

Stevens became a stockholder in the Riviera in the early 2000s, but with the aging resort languishing, he acquired some of the company’s debt. He viewed the Riviera’s 26-acre Strip location as the most valuable piece of the business.

“We always thought the land would hold its value,” Stevens said. “At the time, the price per acre on the Strip was something like $5 million, so I thought the 26 acres was a pretty good backstop.”

Following Riviera’s bankruptcy reorganization, Stevens became one of the resort’s four non operating owners. In 2015, the LVCVA paid $191 million for the Riviera, which was demolished to make way for the current convention center expansion.

Meanwhile, Stevens carved out his space downtown.

He acquired a 50 percent stake in the Golden Gate in 2006, eventually buying out former owner Mark Brandenburg in 2010. At the time, he explored acquiring the aging Las Vegas Club across the Fremont Street Experience from the Golden Gate. But he couldn’t come to an agreement with the Tamares Group, owner of several downtown buildings including the Plaza.

Instead, Stevens turned to Fitzgerald’s, which he purchased in 2011. The property was remodeled into the D Las Vegas, paying homage to Stevens’ Detroit roots.

But the Las Vegas Club, which had closed, was never far from his mind.

He bought the property in 2015 with the idea of remodeling the building whose low-rise exterior resembled a baseball stadium. He spent nine months working with structural engineers to see if it could be done.

During that time, Stevens struck a deal to acquire the adjacent acreage from owner Steve Burnstine. The site included a small office building, a surface parking lot, Mermaid’s casino, and a strip club. The deal also included La Bayou Casino which was renovated into an expansion for the Golden Gate.

The transactions changed the scope of the project, then referred to as 18 Fremont. Instead of renovating the Las Vegas Club, which had “great bones,” Stevens said it made more sense to demolish the entire site and start from scratch.

“It got to a point where piecemealing everything together causes you a lot more long-term problems,” Stevens said. “There were certain elements of the Las Vegas Club I liked, but I didn’t want to spend the money to fix.”

He took his father’s advice to heart.

“My dad said a city block like that was begging for a major investment,” Stevens said.

Circa Resort & Casino. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

A hands-on operator

Derek’s brother Greg Stevens shuns the limelight. He lives in Michigan and is an engineer by trade. He visits Las Vegas a few times a month and has been key in helping turn the two aging downtown casinos into entertainment attractions.

Derek Stevens is proud that his operating team is small and oversees all elements of the casinos and sports betting. They have been together for several years.

He also knows his customers because he spends time with them. When casinos reopened after the 78-day shutdown, Stevens was at the D’s Long Bar, wearing a mask and sitting among his guests. His corporate office is now at Circa, but he loves to walk Fremont Street between his three properties, stopping to talk with downtown visitors.

He also speaks regularly to his more than 21,500 followers on Twitter. Think of legendary downtown operators Benny Binion and Jack Binion, Sam Boyd and Bill Boyd, and Jackie Gaughan, all in the social media era.

Stevens’ outside-the-box promotions draw attention.

In 2018, he stood to win $1 million on a $25,000 wager he made on Michigan winning the NCAA basketball championship. He fell a game short.

When he brought a replica of Belgium’s Manneken Pis statue to the D’s entrance off Third Street in 2015, he teased the announcement with a two-minute YouTube video of a pseudo board meeting that included scantily clad Party Pit dealers and juggling bartenders.

Ahead of June’s casino reopenings, Stevens paid for 2,000 one-way flights to Las Vegas from more than three dozen U.S. destinations on five airline carriers between June 3 and June 5. Visitors were responsible for their return flights and hotel rooms.

He estimated fewer than a quarter of the guests stayed at either the D or Golden Gate.

“Whether people decide to visit my casinos or explore other parts of the city, this is a strong indicator of how Las Vegas can quickly be restored to its former glory,” Stevens said. “I just wanted to jump in and support Las Vegas.”

Howard Stutz is a freelance gaming reporter for The Nevada Independent and the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He has been a Nevada journalist for 30 years. He can be reached at howardmstutz@gmail.com. On Twitter: @howardstutz

Reno airport authority: Planned Trump rally ‘may not proceed,’ violates state’s 50-person limit on public gatherings

The Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority has advised the company that leases the hangar where President Donald Trump had planned to hold a campaign rally on Saturday that the event is in violation of a state directive limiting gatherings to 50 people and that it cannot proceed.

Tina Iftiger, senior vice president and chief commercial officer for the airport authority, in a letter to Hangar 9, LLC on Tuesday said that the company’s decision to enter into a contract to use the hangar for a 5,000 person rally violates Gov. Steve Sisolak’s emergency directive on public gatherings. The company’s lease of the hangar requires the company to “comply with all applicable state laws and directives,” Iftiger wrote.

“Such a rally is a violation of this directive,” she said.

Iftiger added that the airport authority will be “unable to ensure the safety and security of its operations with a rally of such scope” and that Hangar 9 in its lease “agreed not to interfere with or impede the operations of the” airport authority. Any protests and counterprotests associated with the rally would further strain the airport authority’s operations, she said.

“Given the above, you are hereby advised that you may not proceed with the proposed gathering,” Iftiger said.

Claude Cognian, one of the managers of Hangar 9, in an email to Iftiger Wednesday morning, confirmed that the company had offered the hangar to Trump and his campaign for a rally and in return that the campaign had offered to pay to move aircrafts and prepare the space. However, Cognian said the company was withdrawing its offer for the campaign to use the hangar in response to the airport authority's letter.

"Based on our conversation yesterday that, if we were to proceed we will be in violation of our lease with the RTTA and create a default and, we would found ourselves with no hangar for the aircrafts in the future," Cognian wrote. "Then, this leave us with no other option than to communicate to President Trump and his campaign that we cannot help him/them and we are withdrawing the offer to use the hangar."

Hangar 9 LLC is also managed by Ranson Webster, chairman of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a right-leaning think tank, and Charles Mathewson, the former chairman of IGT.

Trump had planned to hold two rallies in Nevada this weekend, one at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport on Saturday afternoon and another at Cirrus Aviation at McCarran International Airport on Sunday evening. The Trump campaign has been holding large rallies at airports amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Chris Jones, spokesman for McCarran, said Wednesday that the airport was never contacted by Cirrus for permission to hold the rally. All hangar leases require that non-aviation events be approved by the airport. Representatives from Cirrus did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said in a statement that the president still plans to travel to Nevada on Saturday and Sunday as planned and that "additional details will be announced soon." Adam Laxalt, the former Republican attorney general and one of Trump's campaign co-chairs in Nevada, tweeted earlier Wednesday morning that Trump's "rally venues" in Nevada had been "canceled.”

Murtaugh, in the statement, also accused Democrats of putting the president's airport rallies in limbo.

"Democrats are trying to keep President Trump from speaking to voters because they know the enthusiasm behind his re-election campaign cannot be matched by Joe Biden — a historically weak candidate controlled by the radical left who could hold a campaign event in a broom closet," Murtaugh said.

However, according to the White House's own recommendations, gatherings in "red zone" counties, like Clark County, where Las Vegas is, should be limited to 10 people or fewer, while gatherings in "yellow zone" counties, like Washoe County, home to Reno, should be limited to 25 — restrictions even more stringent than the state’s.

Gov. Steve Sisolak's office, in a statement, said that it has had no "involvement or communication with the event organizers or potential hosts" regarding the planned Trump campaign rallies.

"Current statewide emergency directives include mandatory face coverings, limitations on public and private gatherings to no more than 50 people, and other measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19," the governor's office said. "The Nevada-specific White House recommendations have consistently included recommendations to limit the size of gatherings for weeks now."

Daren Griffin, president and CEO of the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority, said in a statement that their decision "has nothing to do with politics."

"The letter we sent is about directives and safety and not political campaigns," Griffin said. "“We would hold our tenants to the same standard whether it was a Democratic or Republican rally or any other type of gathering."

Trump’s visit will mark the president’s second trip to the state of 2020. He attended a Hope for Prisoners graduation ceremony and hosted a rally in Las Vegas in February in advance of the Democratic presidential caucus in Nevada.

Sisolak makes second appointment to the Gaming Control Board

Gov. Steve Sisolak has appointed Phil Katsaros, an executive with Certus Gaming USA, to the Gaming Control Board, bringing his career full circle.

It marks Sisolak’s second appointment to the three-member Gaming Control Board this year. In January, the governor selected Sandra Douglass Morgan to be the new chair of the regulatory board for the casino industry.

A press release from the governor’s office noted that Katsaros, who lives in Reno with his wife and two daughters, has extensive experience with international gaming markets. He previously worked for Inspired Gaming’s Virtual Sports business and IGT. His first job in the gaming industry was as an agent in the tax and license division of the Gaming Control Board.

“Phil brings over two decades of gaming experience, making him an outstanding addition to the Gaming Control Board,” Sisolak said in a statement. “I’m thrilled to appoint him and am confident he will use his diverse expertise to strengthen our gamingregulation system and promote Nevada’s gaming industry as the gold standard worldwide.”

Katsaros will replace former board member Shawn Reid, who did not seek reappointment when his term expired at the end of January.