Tony Alamo has never been afraid of a fight.
The Las Vegas physician has always been there for his community. He has served the state of Nevada admirably, chairing two of the most important commissions — the Athletic Commission and the Gaming Commission. He has been working for the benefit of the state ever since Gov. Kenny Guinn appointed him to the Athletic Commission in 2001.
Now, after 12 years and three terms on the Gaming Commission, going back to when Jim Gibbons appointed him in 2008, Alamo is leaving to participate in a bigger fight than anything Steve Wynn or Mike Tyson could mount.
Alamo is joining the battle against the coronavirus.
“It’s time for me to focus my full attention on being a doctor,” Alamo said. “I’m devoting every minute, 24 hours a day to my current job.”
His last day on the job was supposed to be April 27. Instead, he will leave the commission this Friday. Alamo’s appointments came from Republican governors. Currently, Nevada is served by a Democratic governor, Steve Sisolak. In a perfect world, Alamo probably wasn’t going to retain his appointment, politics being what they are. But the current climate isn’t a time for political patronage. Frankly, Nevada needs Alamo in a white jacket, not a pinstripe suit.
“The circumstances are so outside the normality, I never had time to consider it,” Alamo said of whether to remain on the gaming commission.
During his time, Alamo made some pretty tough decisions. His ruling against Wynn Resorts for its handling of then chairman Steve Wynn over sexual harassment allegations resulted in a record $20 million fine.
While with the athletic commission, testing for steroids in combat sport athletes was introduced and tougher drug testing overall was implemented.
“I’m proud that we remained the bridge between the industry and the commission,” he said of helping the gaming and casino industry. “When the industry needed to have something regulatory tweaked or changed to reflect the times, we did that numerous times.
“But I’m most proud of the people I worked with — the enforcement staff, the tax staff, my fellow commissioners and our office staff. There’s a lot of talent there that allowed us to remain the gold standard when it comes to regulatory commissions for gaming.”
As Alamo leaves, he does so without second guessing himself.
“I have no regrets for anything I did in my 19 years of oversight,” he said. “It was a hard decision (to fine Wynn). But we did the right thing.”
He still enjoys going to the fights, even though he has to pay for his seats these days.
“I’ve always enjoyed boxing and MMA,” he said. “I remember going to the fights at the Sports Pavilion at Caesars Palace and of course, the big fights in the stadium at Caesars.”
As he turns in his gavel for a stethoscope, Alamo said the citizens of Nevada need to continue to do what’s right in order to limit the casualties in the fight against the coronavirus.
In his resignation letter from April 7, Alamo wrote: “As you are aware, the peak of the infection is theorized to occur in the next 10-14 days and therefore, I need to direct all of my energies to the clinical and logistical planning that my primary employment demands.”
“The people are doing a great job of staying home, social distancing and avoiding being around others,” he said. “But this fight is ongoing.”
Which is why he’s hesitant to predict when the casinos in Southern Nevada will reopen.
“This is not a function of whether or when the casinos will open,” he said. “It’s not a faucet you turn on and off. The market will determine when Las Vegas will reopen.
“Just because the casino is open, that doesn’t mean people are going to come visit from California, fly in from other states or even from other countries. It’s a psychology of when will people be comfortable traveling and spending discretionary income.”
It took Las Vegas a long time to recover from the 9/11 attacks in 2001 and from the Great recession in 2008. The fear is the coronavirus pandemic will be far worse than both of those incidents combined.
“Las Vegas will be the hardest hit and the slowest to recover,” Alamo said of the local economy, which has taken a blow unlike any time in its history.
“It’s going to be a slow process. But I’ll put my money on Nevada every time.”
For all our sakes, let’s hope the good doctor is right.