Las Vegas firm builds big stake in Washington card rooms, including one in Lakewood

A Las Vegas company is buying five more house-banked card rooms in Washington state, including the Macau Casino in Lakewood.

Maverick Gaming LLC did not release the terms of the deal, but said Tuesday the acquisition will increase the number of card rooms it owns to 18.

The company also said it plans over the next month to announce the purchase of five more properties, which would mean it would own about half of the non-tribal card rooms in Washington.

The Legislature in 1997 authorized house-banked card rooms, also referred to as mini-casinos, where bettors play against the house rather than against each other.

“Growing up in Hoquiam, Washington, and as a member of the Shoalwater Bay Nation, I never dreamed an opportunity like this would one day exist,” Eric Persson, owner of Maverick Gaming, said in a statement. “In my case, it’s definitely true that you can come home again.”

In addition to the Macau Casino in Lakewood, Maverick Gaming is buying the Macau Casino in Tukwilla, the Caribbean Casino in Kirkland, the Caribbean Cardroom in Kirkland, and the Caribbean Casino in Yakima. The sellers are five Kirkland-based limited liability companies that list Herbert Lampert and Michael Marquess as owners.

Dolores Chiechi, executive director of the Recreational Gaming Association of Washington, the trade group for non-tribal house-banked card rooms, said she’s hopeful that the new ownership will help card rooms remain “healthy and viable in the future.”

The purchase, which is subject to approval by the Washington State Gambling Commission, comes as the number of non-tribal card rooms has declined from 97 to 44 over the past 13 years.

Chiechi said a big factor is competition from tribal casinos that have exclusive operation of electronic scratch-ticket machines, often referred to as slot machines, and other electronic gaming devices.

“We don’t have the games that the public wants to play. So when they come in to our facilities and ask where the machines are, we have to point them down the road to the tribal casinos that offer slots,” Chiechi said.

“The idea is you’ve got a couple -- a man and a wife -- and they want to go out. The man plays cards and the woman plays slots and they can go to one place where they can get what they want.

“Our facilities are more local neighborhood clubs that offer poker and various forms of blackjack, so we don’t get those players who like to play the electronic games. Similar to the bingo era, folks who want to play cards are diminishing. They want to play online, high-speed, technologically advanced games and we’re not allowed to offer those,” she added.

In April, Maverick Gaming announced an agreement to purchase a subsidiary of Great Canadian Gaming, which included three card rooms in Washington. Two months later, the firm added nine more card rooms through the purchased of Nevada Gold & Casinos, Inc.

Maverick Gaming was founded by Persson, a former global senior vice president of slots at Las Vegas Sands, and Justin Beletram, former vice president of slots at Belaggio and Marina Bay Sands in Las Vegas.