Last week, what used to be four different Irish pubs with four different names reopened under one moniker: Sean Patrick’s.
Golden Gaming revealed that it was purchasing the pubs about a month ago. Since then, the company closed the properties while it made renovations and worked its way through the regulatory process.
State regulators gave final approval of a gaming license for the new brand on Sept. 25. Now, the former Molly Malones, Sean Patrick’s, Morrissey’s and Kavanaugh’s are all called Sean Patrick’s.
Golden Gaming’s other brands include PT’s Pubs and Sierra Gold, and the regional tavern and slot route operator has more than doubled its number of taverns over the last decade and a half. It now operates nearly 50 properties in Southern Nevada alone.
Steve Arcana, the company’s chief operating officer, sat down with VEGAS INC last week to discuss the expansion and the future of Golden Gaming. His answers have been edited for length and clarity.
How did the Sean Patrick’s business come about?
Besides being the largest tavern operator in the state, we also are the largest slot route in the state as well. Many of our third-party route partners look to us for machines, marketing support and other route services. At the same time, they also look to us as an exit strategy oftentimes. We’ve had a long history with this particular bar owner from the Morrissey Group, Mike Morrissey and Susan Graves, and when they were interested in selling they approached us. Ultimately, they fit into our portfolio very well of taverns that we operate.
How are the new Sean Patrick’s different from the businesses that were there before?
Those locations were more of a restaurant, dining type of experience. Our experience is more of a bar experience, more of a tavern type experience. Our setting is more for groups of people out during happy hour as opposed to the traditional mom and dad and kids out for dinner. Most of the energy and the excitement at a PT’s or a Sierra Gold or now a Sean Patrick’s happens around the bar area. These locations used to be segmented with dining rooms — we’ve opened them all up, and now everything is exposed to the bar area.
Why didn’t you just make these new PT’s?
They really had a distinct Irish feel to them, so to go into them and to completely gut them with all new finishes just didn’t seem natural for the locations. We took down a lot of the old Irish memorabilia out of the ceiling and the walls, and we made them so you can really appreciate the beautiful Irish millwork.
I saw an ad for a job fair for those locations. Does that mean that everybody who used to work there was laid off?
No. We offered to hire everybody, and about half of them chose to stay with us. Then the other half we hired through a job fair, and also upward promotions from within our current PT’s operations.
Did the food change at all?
We took a lot of your traditional Irish fare and we combined it with your traditional tavern-type items. For instance, instead of chips and salsa, ours are chips with corn beef and onions and spicy ranch. So a little bit of a tavern item but with an Irish flair to it.
PT’s has expanded quite a bit over the years. And now with this, do you see more growth on the horizon?
Absolutely. When Mr. (Blake) Sartini and Golden Gaming bought the original PT’s back in 2001, there were 17 locations. We now have 50. We’ve developed new brands in addition to PT’s which help to differentiate us in different parts of the valley. We go out and develop brands so that we can continue to grow and not just continually add the same product out there. We have four different PT’s, we have the Sean Patrick’s brand (and) the Sierra Gold brand — so we currently operate six different brands within the state.
Do you think you’ll open up more Sean Patrick’s?
I think that’s always a possibility. If it takes off and it’s accepted nicely in the market, then I would see us being able to grow that brand.
At the Global Gaming Expo, there were a lot of conversations about the future of slots, the future of gaming, specifically geared toward younger folks. How do you as a slot route operator try to make your machines appealing to Millennials?
We are a gaming company, not a bar, restaurant or tavern company. We provide games on the route, we provide games to major supermarket brands, we provide games to our own wholly owned taverns. Those games are critical to us.
The IGT video poker product has continued to mature over the years with better software and better gaming offerings. We now are seeing the expansion of the IGT Game King, what we call the G-20. The G-20 is a platform that provides a larger screen, more interactive components with the player, better gaming themes, more keno and blackjack themes in addition to just video poker. And those types of games are beginning to become more popular out there. There are other gaming manufacturers that we work with to develop new bartop-type games that would possibly add other products that younger folks are interested in, like roulette or pai gow poker or even a dice-type game — a craps-type game — that’s on a video poker bartop platform. We are constantly looking for new ways to reinvent ourselves with gaming.
There’s a lot of talk in our industry right now about how we’re going to reinvent ourselves in the future. I think taverns and restricted gaming locations are great opportunity for a younger, more vibrant crowd to enjoy both gaming and entertainment. They’re in a highly interactive society, so they want to feel it in their games and they want to have the ability to bet sports on their phones. We give them all of those opportunities.