Scott can’t avoidmaking headlines

Jan 11, 2005 6:50 AM

Some folks, like Britney Spears and Nicki Hilton and Shawn Scott of Las Vegas and the Virgin Islands, simply cannot stay out of the news. The women speak for themselves, or their images do, and they relish it. Scott does not necessarily seek the headlines, but he finds them anyway.

Five years ago, he was big news in the weekly Vinton News and daily Lake Charles American Press in Louisiana, where he bought Delta Downs for $10 million or so, helped get slots at tracks there, then sold the place to Boyd Gaming two years later for $120 million, or was it $130 million?

In 2003, he moved up in class to the Syracuse Post-Standard and Utica Dispatch in New York, when he bought Vernon Downs. Scott subsequently sold it when he couldn’t get licensed to run its racino, and then regained control, along with Vestin Mortgage, when the three guys who bought it from him also couldn’t get licensed in New York.

Last year, he was headline news in the Bangor Daily News and Portland Press Herald in Maine. Scott bought little Bangor Raceway for $2 million or so, helped get slots at tracks passed in Maine, then sold the raceway to Penn National Gaming for a reported $50 million.

Now, as 2005 dawns, Scott has made the journalistic big time, getting major coverage in the Washington Post.

Last summer, a squadron of signature collectors, assembled by a Scott-affiliated group including well-placed locals, stormed sections of Washington (not exactly the Georgetown section) getting tens of thousands of signatures on petitions to legalize slots in the nation’s capital. When the election and ethics board got through sifting through them and tossing out the fraudulent and forged petitions, it declared only 14,687 valid, short of the 17,599 needed to get the matter on the ballot.

Lo and behold, two days before Christmas, the signature collectors were back, signing up registered voters during six days over the holidays. They dumped another 6,000 signatures on the election board, which Scott would like added to the original batch, which could put him over the number needed. The election board now must determine whether it is legal to carry over signatures from one election to another. According to the Post, the December effort surprised not only the election officials but also Scott’s local allies in Washington, some of whom quickly distanced themselves from the project. The defections, the Post said, included the chairman of a political action committee formed earlier to support the measure. He bailed out, as did the group’s treasurer and record-keeper.

One of Scott’s lawyers told the Post that even if the election board does not accept the signatures, Scott is prepared to vigorously renew pursuit of the referendum process.

While all this was happening in Washington, Scott’s friends at Vestin Mortgage here in Vegas were making news themselves. You probably saw the Review-Journal story about Joe Namath returning his 400,000 shares in the Vestin Group to the mortgage brokerage outfit in return for a cool $1.6 million, ending his role as a spokesman. A day or two later the paper reported the feds were investigating Vestin.

The names of Namath, and former Notre Dame and Green Bay Packers star Paul Hornung, who also did a few commercials for Vestin, never appeared in any of the many stories I saw in New York or Maine about Vestin and Scott. Their association with Vestin comes as a surprise to the racing crowd in those areas.

Even without them on board, Vestin and Shawn Scott are likely to stay in the news. Scott is reported ready to make another run for a license in New York, and he obviously is not going to leave quietly in Washington.

Dollarwise, he has been a big winner monetarily, if not artistically. Check that. Making money is an art, and this guy is a Rembrandt when it comes to drawing down the bucks. If he winds up with slots in Washington, King George might tap him for Secretary of the Exchequer, or have him finance our adventuresome expeditions overseas. Anyone know if slots are legal in Afghanistan and Iraq?