Owners of Nevada’s Eureka Casino Resort are introducing an intriguing business strategy by converting the casino-resort’s retirement account into an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).
Just off I-15 in Mesquite, Nevada the family-owned Eureka may not pose a threat to the Strip’s resort giants, but the 214-room, 1,000 slot full-service facility with poker room and spa has put its stamp on the competitive gaming business within the Nevada-Utah region. The casino-resort was co-founded in 1988 by Gregory T.H. Lee, who is chairman and CEO, and his father Ted Lee. The privately held company, which also owns the Eureka Casino on Sahara Avenue, is a major employer in Mesquite with a workforce of 550.
Eureka’s ESOP application is scheduled to be reviewed by the Gaming Control Board on Wednesday, and the Nevada Gaming Commission will deliver a final vote on November 19. Eureka hopes the conversion will be completed before the New Year.
An act of faith between employees and managers, ESOP’s provide a company’s workforce with an ownership interest in the company, and both players are necessary in order for it to be successful. While ESOP’s can free up funds for a company’s expansion and make money for everyone, there is a substantial risk, especially to employees. If a company’s ESOP enters into bankruptcy employees lose their jobs and their ESOP accounts would be worthless.
Eureka has a lot riding on the ESOP’s success, and according to the company’s two-year analysis of ESOP’s, with their specific ownership and operating model, combined with a diversification and expansion strategy, they will succeed in Mesquite’s local casino market. If successful the substantial tax savings derived from an employee-owned company will enable Eureka to strengthen and expand its place in the market.
Coming to Las Vegas in 1971, Ted and Doris Lee invested in real estate and the operation and development of casinos, restaurants and hotels in Las Vegas and Mesquite. The couple’s two sons, Ernest and Gregory, own and manage the Eureka properties in Mesquite and Las Vegas. In 2011 the Lee family donated $15 million to the UNLV business college; it was among the largest single gifts in UNLV’s 54-year history.