Eric Swallow, the fifty-three year-old card room impresario responsible for reinventing the bankrupt Garden City Casino, wants to sell the now popular Casino M8trix in Silicon Valley, but his business partners put the brakes on selling the property to casino mogul John Park.
Fifty percent owners in the casino, Peter and Jeanine Lunardi, wanted to purchase Swallow’s half of Casino M8trix, but a price couldn’t be agreed upon and they were in arbitration. That arbitrator recently agreed with the Lunardis that they should get first dibs at the property. According to The San Jose Mercury News, Swallow said the arbitrator’s decision means another 120 days of delays, after almost a year, and he’d like to get out of the business and move on.
Last year, Swallow tapped successful casino owner John Park, owner of Parkwest Casinos, which runs casinos in Petaluma, Livermore, Sacramento, Lodi, Rancho and Cordova, to purchase his shares of Casino M8trix. That was after he had offered the Lunardis a chance to buy his shares, but they didn’t bite. He says that only after a purchase agreement was signed in April 2015 with Park, did they want his half of the property. Attorney for the Lunardi family, Tracey Buck-Walsh, said the arbitrator ruled Swallow deliberately proposed “terms to the Lunardis that are different from (or not identical to) those offered by Park,” failing to give her clients an opportunity to make the purchase.
The failure to agree and the subsequent feud between Swallow and his business partners led to the arbitration. The Lunardis were also accused of hiding casino profits, intended for tax authorities and gambling addiction services, in an attempt to avoid paying taxes, but their case with the state was settled last year and they were allowed to maintain their gaming licenses. This month, the arbitrator sided with the Lunardis and asked Swallow to restart the process and give the partners 30 days to submit and offer.
If the Lunardis are successful however, according to documents, it’s likely they’ll sell the majority of the shares to someone else. That would be Ryan Stone of the Monarch Group, a private real estate investment firm based in La Jolla, a supposed friend of the Lunardi family. Park said the arbitrator’s decision didn’t surprise him and he isn’t walking away from the offer he made to Swallow.
The partners faced similar accusations, but after fighting the charges, administrative law judge Mary-Margaret Anderson recommended Swallow lose his gaming license and that he be fined $430,000. Meanwhile, the Lunardis were able to retain their licenses, and Pete Lunardi was issued a fine of $250,000. Garden City, Inc., the former name of Casino M8trix prior to rebranding, and owned by Swallow and the Lunardis, were fined $1.25 million. Swallows proposed judgment awaits approval from the Gambling Control Commission. If approved by the commission, Swallow said he plans to appeal.
According to the judge’s proposed decision and the settlement, state officials were unable to prove that the three business partners failed to pay taxes or “siphoned money off to themselves,” but were able to show that Swallow provided false information to the state and transactions weren’t properly documents by the Lunardis.