The recent huge stock market rallies have seen the owner (Tilman Fertitta) of one of New Jersey’s biggest and most popular sportsbook/online casino platforms, the Golden Nugget, looking to potentially raise billions of dollars through an IPO. In order to make it reality, Tilman Fertitta is reportedly in discussions with Fast Acquisition Corp. (NYSE:FST) on a merger that would provide the pathway for the billionaire to bring his Golden Nugget Empire and Landry’s restaurants operations public. Why is the Merger Needed? The way things have panned out, Fertitta will need the merger to pull off a public launch of Golden Nugget Inc. Before the pandemic hit the nation’s economy hard, Fertitta had been quietly shopping a share of as much as 49% in his Golden Nugget franchise, which includes the Landry’s Seafood, Bubba Gump Shrimp, Morton’s The Steakhouse, McCormick & Schmick’s and the Del Frisco’s steakhouse chains in addition to the online sportsbooks and land-based and online casinos. There was limited interest in the casino business, however, not the restaurants. Fertitta had been seeking above market price, and even before the pandemic hit and closed restaurants nationwide, restaurants were not seen to carry potential for huge growth numbers. It is believed that Fertitta went on the lookout for a minority investor in the casino assets alone; an effort that fell some way short of his expectations. After buying the Houston Rockets for $2.2 billion in 2017, little has fallen into place for the Golden Nugget owner. Firstly, NBA bets were unable to be offered in his New Jersey sportsbook due to his ownership of the Rockets and then other concerns, like Fertitta’s publicly traded food delivery business, Waitr Holdings. Since Fertitta blank-check company bought Waitr in 2018 for $308 million, the food delivery business has somehow struggled, even throughout the pandemic. Fast Forward Back to 2021 Talks continue in January 2021 for Tilman Fertitta to take Golden Nugget/Landry public with the merger with Fast Acquisition Corp. Fast are considered to be a special purpose acquisition company and the talks with them are hoping to raise Fertitta more than a $1 billion. According to unidentified sources, the deal could potentially value the combined entity at up to $7 billion including debt. The newly merged company, which Fertitta would still possibly control, is set to include the casinos and restaurants under their existing Golden Nugget and Landry’s brands, sources explained. If the ongoing talks finally bear fruit, a deal could possibly be set to be announced over the coming weeks. However, discussions could yet prove to be unsuccessful. For the time being at least, representatives for Golden Nugget and Fast Acquisition have declined to comment on the potential merger deal. However, it is widely considered that Fertitta is interested in using the funds to purchase other Las Vegas Casino assets. In order to bring his casino ownership extension dreams to reality, the merger with Fast appears to be the best option to purchase those new casinos and in turn, launch the Golden Nugget IPO. “The idea is he’s wanted to diversify,” an involved investment banker familiar with Fertitta’s plans has said. Fertitta started the process in response to the global pandemic last year and accomplished the genesis for this deal in paying himself about $300 million in dividends through Golden Nugget, and refinanced the casino arm of his business in order to delay principal payments until October 2023, staving off the risk of bankruptcy due to pandemic-enforced casino closures. However, Fertitta’s ‘too-close’ ties to the poisoned ‘Trump brand’ may yet see the deal fall over. Watch this space for updates of the impending Golden Nugget IPO deal. PlayUp’s Partners in New Jersey PlayUp has entered into a multi-year agreement with FR Park Racing, the operator and sports betting license holder of New Jersey’s Freehold Raceway, which is jointly owned by Penn National Gaming, Greenwood Racing, and Parx Casino. Given the proximity of Freehold Raceway to the border with Pennsylvania and the presence of Penn National Gaming in the deal, it appears the PlayUp is also positing itself for entry into legal sports betting in Pennsylvania. Nothing has yet been announced of a deal to operate in the Keystone State. “We are very excited about the partnership with two excellent brands – Parx Casino and Penn National,” said PlayUp USA’s Chief Executive Laila Mintas. “We are looking forward to establishing PlayUp as a strong and innovative sports betting brand in the US. We are working to launch in New Jersey in the first quarter of this year.” Mintas continued. From the other side of the fence, Parx Senior Vice President of Interactive Gaming and Sports Matthew Cullen said of the PlayUp deal; “Parx Casino is happy to partner with PlayUp in New Jersey as they debut their international expertise of online sports betting in the United States” The agreement is only PlayUp’s second market access deal in the United States following its debut in Colorado in 2020 in partnership with the Mile-High State’s Bull Durham Casino. PlayUp’s Global Chief Executive Officer Daniel Simic added on the impending PlayUp sportsbook launch in New Jersey: “This is great news and another positive result for our business. We are building strong foundations of technology, systems and partnerships which will enable us to pursue our plans for rapid growth. “We look forward to continuing to leverage our industry knowledge and innovative thinking to offer our clients the best possible betting experience in Australia and the US.” NJ Sports Betting Industry Icon, Dennis Drazin, Increases PlayUp’s profile in the state PlayUp first established links to New Jersey in early December when Dennis Drazin was cleverly appointed to the PlayUp Board of Directors. An icon of the sports betting industry in New Jersey, Drazin is chairman and Chief Executive officer of Darby Development LLC, the operator of Monmouth Park, the largest and arguably, most famous racetrack in New Jersey. Drazin and the Monmouth Park track made sports betting history in New Jersey when it famously accepted the state’s first legal sports wager in the facility’s onsite William Hill sportsbook by Governor Phil Murphy on June 14, 2018, when he placed $20 on an eventual unsuccessful wager on Germany to win the 2018 Soccer World Cup. Drazin will supply the kind of high-profile connections and know-how that PlayUp will need to be a success in the ultra-competitive New Jersey sports betting market. However, given some of their unique products, PlayUp might prove to be a hit in New Jersey with-or-without Drazin’s help. In particular, PlayUp’s take on DFS – where it is a mix of DFS and sports wagering as we know it, or peer-to-peer online betting, according to PlayUp – is exactly the sort of product that should be hit straight out of the gates in the highly sports betting literate environment of New Jersey.