Who owns Ameristar casino?

July 12, 2023

Ameristar Casino is a prominent hotel and casino chain that has gained recognition for its top-notch facilities and entertainment offerings.

With multiple locations across the United States, Ameristar has become a go-to destination for avid gamblers and leisure seekers alike.

In this article, we will delve into the ownership of Ameristar Casino and explore the key players involved in its success.

The Roots of Ameristar Casino

The story of Ameristar Casino traces back to the mid-1950s when “Cactus Pete” Piersanti and his associates established Cactus Petes Desert Lodge, a small roadside casino located just south of the Idaho border in Elko County, Nevada.

This humble establishment would later become Jackpot, Nevada, a bustling gambling destination. In 1956, Piersanti and others incorporated the property as Cactus Petes, Inc., marking the beginning of what would eventually evolve into the renowned Ameristar brand.

Craig Neilsen’s Vision

In the late 1980s, Craig Neilsen, the son of Ameristar’s original owners, took over the gaming properties in Jackpot, Nevada.

Recognizing the potential for growth and expansion, Neilsen set out to transform the properties into a regional casino resort complex that would attract visitors for longer stays and broaden their market reach.

Overcoming opposition from other shareholders, Neilsen acquired full ownership of the properties and began implementing his ambitious vision.

The Rise of Ameristar Casino

Under Craig Neilsen’s leadership, Ameristar Casino experienced significant growth and success. The casino floors were expanded, luxury hotel rooms were built, and new restaurants and a ballroom for live entertainment were added.

These developments propelled Ameristar Casino to new heights, earning it a coveted Four Diamond Award from the AAA, putting it on par with the top properties on the Las Vegas Strip.

Expansion into New Markets

As riverboat and dockside gaming gained popularity outside of Nevada and New Jersey, Craig Neilsen recognized the potential of a steep site on the bank of the Mississippi River in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Despite the engineering and geological challenges it posed, Neilsen was confident in the location’s superiority. With a dedicated team, he overcame the development risks and successfully constructed Ameristar Vicksburg, which quickly became the market leader in Vicksburg.

In 1996, Ameristar made its entry into the greater Omaha market with the acquisition of a Four Diamond property in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

This property, designed to evoke the charm of a turn-of-the-century Midwestern town, further solidified Ameristar’s reputation for offering unique and high-quality experiences.

Strategic Acquisitions and Expansion

In the early 2000s, Craig Neilsen and his management team embarked on a series of transformative transactions that significantly increased the size and influence of Ameristar Casino.

The company acquired the largest casino in the Kansas City market as well as another property in the St. Louis market. To finance these acquisitions and refocus their resources, Ameristar sold its Henderson, Nevada property to the owner of the Missouri properties.

Innovation and Success

Craig Neilsen’s commitment to innovation and guest satisfaction played a crucial role in Ameristar Casino’s ongoing success. The introduction of multi-denomination slot machines in the Las Vegas market, which were quickly adopted by Ameristar, provided a competitive advantage and boosted the company’s market share and profitability.

The Acquisition by Penn National Gaming

In 2013, Ameristar Casinos, Inc. was acquired by Gaming and Leisure Properties, signaling a new era for the brand. However, the journey didn’t end there. In 2018, Penn National Gaming announced its agreement to acquire Pinnacle Entertainment, the owner of Ameristar Casino.

The deal, valued at $2.8 billion, aimed to enhance Penn National’s scale and operations, creating a more efficient integrated gaming company.


Ameristar Casino has come a long way since its humble beginnings as a small roadside casino in Jackpot, Nevada. Through the vision and determination of individuals like Craig Neilsen, the brand has grown into a prominent player in the casino and entertainment industry. As Ameristar continues to evolve under new ownership, its commitment to delivering exceptional experiences and maintaining its reputation for excellence remains unwavering.

Whether you’re seeking thrilling casino games, luxurious accommodations, or unforgettable entertainment, Ameristar Casino is sure to captivate and delight. With its rich history and commitment to innovation, Ameristar Casino remains a premier destination for those seeking excitement, relaxation, and the ultimate entertainment experience.

Please note that the information provided in this article is based on public sources and may be subject to change. For the most up-to-date and accurate information, please refer to the official website of Ameristar Casino and its respective owners.

Author Susan

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