02/13/2004 12:00AM

Boyd-Coast history goes way back

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The recently announced merger between local giants Coast Casinos and Boyd Gaming Corporation signified a flashback to the "good old days" of Las Vegas. Although Boyd Gaming is a publicly traded corporation, it is still guided by its namesake founding family. And Coast Casinos, which was privately held, also represents a founding family in the Las Vegas gambling business.

In fact, it was the social aspect of the two giants that had many industry observers surprised by the $1.3 billion acquisition of Coast Casinos by Boyd Corporation. Michael Gaughan, chairman and CEO of Coast Casinos, and Bill Boyd, CEO of Boyd Gaming, have known each other for more than 40 years. Their fathers, gaming pioneers Jackie Gaughan and Sam Boyd, were partners in the 1940's, way before the burgeoning corporations infused billions of dollars transforming Las Vegas into the entertainment and gaming capital that it is today.

Coast Casinos, which operates a trio of successful local casinos in Las Vegas, entertained going public more than two years ago, but it scrapped the idea when the attractive IPO market softened. Since then, there have been several gaming companies that courted Coast Casinos properties. None, however, had the personal history nor close family association with the comfort level that Boyd brought to the table. Conversations began in a social setting between the Gaughan and Boyd camps over 18 months ago and became more serious just a few weeks ago.

There is no doubt that the synergies between the two company management and executive staffs is one of its biggest assets. The similar philosophies upon which both companies have built their reputation and successes are also parallel.

The Coast Casino merger with Boyd Gaming Corporation is a real grassroots, family marriage of old-time Las Vegas operators in a 21st century environment.

But it is the very way by which each company has operated over the years that puts the combined casinos in position to be a formidable competitor on the Las Vegas terrain while taking their brand of gaming success into growing opportunities beyond the Silver State.

For horseplayers, the new company should provide an exciting future. Horseplayers have been valued customers of both companies for decades. Boyd and Coast have promoted their race books with a premium on the local players. Each company sponsors local daily radio shows on the sport, and they continue to provide promotions that span free handicapping contests to expert handicapping seminars. They each supply added handicapping help to customers with specialized selection sheets from the industry's most respected prognosticators.

Coast Casinos currently hosts four horse race handicapping tournaments per year and boasts the largest at The Orleans, which traditionally attracts the most participation nationwide each year.

The new gaming giant combines $2 billion in revenues from 11 properties in Las Vegas with an additional half-dozen locations throughout the United States. The new company will employ over 25,000 people nationwide, with over 15,000 in Las Vegas, and have total room inventory that exceeds 9,000, with 5,300 of them in Las Vegas. The Southcoast property planned by Coast Casinos, set to break ground later this year, will add another local brand off Interstate I-15 from Southern California in the skyline shadow of the Strip.

The next generation of old family partners can only mean success again, from the jeans to the genes.