Mississippi deal pays off for Sands after all | nnbw.com

Mississippi deal pays off for Sands after all

John Seelmeyer

The Copa deal might turn out all right for Ferenc Szony after all.

The Sands Regent, the Reno-based hotel and casino operator headed by Szony, last week said it got $205,000 in debt payments from the owners of the Copa Casino in Gulfport, Miss., in the first three months of this year.

That’s not chump change for the Reno company, which wasn’t sure it would get anything back.

The repayment from the Mississippi casino, in fact, was nearly three times the $77,000 The Sands Regent earned from operations in the first quarter.

And even giving a nod to all the usual SEC-mandated warnings about predicting the future, Szony thinks regular payments from the Southland look promising for a while.

The Sands Regent in 1998 sold the Copa Casino on the Gulf Coast to a group of Mississippi investors.

The price was $8.5 million including an interestfree note for $8 million.

The owners of the Copa were required to pay either $15,000 a month or 2 percent of the casino’s gross revenues each month.

But Szony and his team weren’t confident about repayment of the note until the Mississippi casino was refurbished recently.

“We believe they are going to be a very viable long-term organization and probably probably will be able to pay the funds they owe,” Szony told investment analysts last week.

In the annual report it filed in the middle of last year, The Sands Regent estimated it could receive $540,000 a year from the sale of the Copa.

But it could be a lot more than that.

Szony said last week the payback might be accomplished in six to eight years – a pace that would bring close to $1 million annually into The Sands Regent coffers.

Szony wasn’t talking about what the company plans to do with the money, but one possibility is this: Pleased as punch with last year’s acquisition of The Gold Ranch a casino, RV park and gas station west of Reno Szony said The Sands Regent plans either to expand The Gold Ranch or make another acquisition.

Either course would reduce the company’s reliance on The Sands Regency hotel and casino, its flagship operation in downtown Reno.

Downtown operations, Szony said, were flat in the company’s most recent quarter, and its growth came from Gold Ranch operations.

The company earned $77,000 in the recent quarter compared with a loss of $379,000 a year earlier.