Sharkey's for sale

Sharkey's Casino is part of a 13-casino package that is up for sale but the owner of the company has established a $15 million fund to encourage employees to stay on the job until the casinos are sold.

"We had a meeting with the employees Thursday and at that time they were offered a retention package," said Sharkey's general manager Bernie Curtis. "They'll get a little bit of a financial boost if they stay."

The Holder Hospitality Group announced Friday that 13 Nevada casinos and the slot routes it owns are for sale for $200 million. There are about 1,500 employees company-wide who work at the casinos involved.

Holder Hospitality Group owner Harold Holder said it would be a practical matter for new owners to have employees in place when they take over ownership.

"I think the new company will be a bigger company than we are, but no one has enough people to come in and replace everyone," Holder said. "We want to make sure the employees are treated properly. I will encourage the new people to interview every employee."

Besides Sharkey's, the 12 other Holder Hospitality Group casinos for sale include the Silver Club in Sparks and casinos in Elko, Fernley, Hawthorne, Henderson, Spring Creek, West Wendover and Winnemucca. Holder's 15-acre future casino property in Tonopah and properties in Carlin and Eureka are not included in the package.

After an anticipated 18 months for the sale of the casinos, the 75-year-old Holder wants to spend more time with his 4-year-old son.

"I plan to spend the majority of my time in Florida," Holder said. "I'm originally from Pensacola, the 'Redneck Riviera.' I want my son to have the same environment I had - a slower pace."

What Holder has plans to stay involved in casino projects in Ghana and Central America and to stay current in his flight requirements by making at least three night landings every 90 days. He said he has a couple of offers to teach classes in entrepreneurship in Florida so he knows it won't be easy to "retire."

"I know I won't be able to go from 60 to zero," Holder said. "I will miss the action, making decisions.

"When I got into the casino business, I wanted something with a future, and hospitality won't go out of style."

Holder said the casino business isn't the same as it was when he started 7 1/2 years ago.

"It's not like the old days. Sharkey is a legend," he said. "He was an operator who kept everything in his head and made it work for his family and heirs and it rewarded him financially."

Sharkey's was owned and operated by Sharkey Begovich from 1971 until it was sold to Holder in 2001. Begovich died Aug. 9, 2002.

Sharkey's Casino has two table games, about 200 slot machines, a full-service restaurant, bar and banquet facilities. The property includes the casino, parking lot across Gilman Ave. and the Aladdin Flowers and Gifts building.

Curtis said there are 86 employees at Sharkey's who are thinking about the future.

"The property is actively being marketed," he said. "The employees are concerned even though it will be business as usual until this place is sold.

"A new good company would be foolish to let these people go. They should look at it like we do - these are people who do a really fine job here," Curtis said. "We're looking for a smooth transition to whatever owner we may have."


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