Barrick Gaming Corporation

by Shane Rivers on February 19th 2015.

The Barrick Gaming Corporation was created in 2002 when D.W. Barrick and Stephen Crystal formed a partnership. Both men had a background in land development, while Barrick also had extensive experience in the gambling industry. Crystal held a 25% share in the company, while Barrick was the majority owner with 75%.

Over the next few years, the Barrick Gaming Corporation developed a strategy to revitalize the downtown Las Vegas area by purchasing existing hotels and casinos, as well as raw land and underdeveloped properties. During an interview with members of the media, Stephen Crystal outlined the plans that Barrick Gaming had for Las Vegas. These included:

  • Purchasing the Queen of Hearts and Nevada Club hotels on Main Street and turning them into remodeled casinos.
  • Transforming the Western hotel/casino and the six blocks surrounding it into an appealing destination for Hispanic tourists and gamblers.
  • Erecting an 8000-seat temporary sports arena on the grounds of The Plaza. In addition to being 75% cheaper than a permanent arena, it could also be re-located once the development with The Western was underway.
  • Getting rid of the Las Vegas Club’s brick exterior on Fremont Street in favor of an open-air environment that would draw in crowds from the Fremont Street Experience.
  • Construct a 1200-room hotel tower adjacent to the south tower of The Plaza.
  • Construct a 1200-room time share tower in the downtown area.
  • Build a walkway across Main Street to connect The Plaza and the Las Vegas Club, creating a multi-themed, 1500-room resort in the process.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board voted unanimously to approve the application for the purchase of the casinos. In March of 2004, Barrick Gaming Corporation in conjunction with the Tamares Groupa private investment firm based in Liechtensteinpurchased 40 acres in downtown Las Vegas from Jackie Gaughan for $82 million. The bulk of the finances were supplied by Tamares, while the Barrick group was mainly tasked with running the casinos and carrying out proposed renovations. Gaughan retained ownership of the El Cortez Hotel & Casino, although Barrick was given the option to purchase the property on right of first refusal.

This purchase included the following casinos:

The Plaza – Once the purchase was complete Barrick brought in longtime friend and confidant Larry Manetti t to serve as VP of entertainment. Manetti, best known for his roles on popular TV shows such as Magnum PI and Baa Baa Black Sheep, opened up his own restaurant on the premises and hosted a celebrity brunch every Sunday.

The Gold Spike – This hotel/casino was known for offering inexpensive rooms to gamblers on a budget. Following the sale to Barrick, the establishment’s table games were removed in favor of additional slot machines.

The Western – Jackie Gaughan’s casino empire targeted low-roller players, and the Associated Press once referred to The Western as “a beacon for the broke and nearly broken.” When it opened in 1970, its 1020-seat bingo parlor was the largest in the world.

The Vegas Club – In addition to targeting players without much money, the Vegas Club was most notable for being the first casino to install a neon sign on its property back in 1931.

Later that year, Barrick purchased the Nevada Hotel & Casino and the Queen of Hearts Hotel & Casino. The Queen of Hearts was notorious for harboring social misfits, as it was located across the street from the Clark County Detention Center and often served as a first stop for released prisoners. From 1994 to 1995, police responded to 680 calls at the establishment.

In November of 2004, Barrick announced the intention to make another acquisition, this time the Golden Nugget Laughlin for $31 million. A final deal was never reached, however, and a competitor eventually made the purchase.

After 18 months of operating the Vegas casinos, the Barrick Gaming Corporation was unable to pay employees or vendors and had missed interest payments on their loans. Tamares, the primary investor, forced them to sell, covering their debts and eventually controlling 15% of downtown gaming. According to Barrick, “In the course of business these things happen at different times. We had an option to sell out. Real estate prices are high. We got a good price for our property. We are moving on.”

As part of the agreement, CEO D.W. Barrick resigned from his position. A short time later, Barrick bought out Stephen Crystal’s 25% interest in the company. In July of 2010, D.W. Barrick announced that his company had become a member of the Pacific Casino Group. In addition to becoming part of the ownership, Barrick announced that they were in talks to purchase a major casino before the end of the year. The sale was never finalized, leaving the future status of Barrick Gaming Corporation in limbo.


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