AGA Hall of Fame to honor inductees

Jul 19, 2005 4:31 AM


A mixed bag of inductees will be honored by the 2005 Gaming Hall of Fame at this year’s Global Gaming Expo (G2E).

The inductees include Craig H. Neilsen, president and CEO of Ameristar Casinos, Inc.; Larry Ruvo, senior managing director of Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada; renowned actress and nightclub entertainer Debbie Reynolds; and celebrity chef and entrepreneur Wolfgang Puck.

The 17th annual Gaming Hall of Fame charity dinner and induction ceremony will be held Thursday, Sept. 15, at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

"Each of the individuals being inducted this year have been significant in shaping the image and culture of the gaming-entertainment industry through their diverse and remarkable talents, and we are proud to honor their contributions," said Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr., president and CEO of the American Gaming Association (AGA).

An executive in gaming, real-estate development and construction for more than 25 years, Craig H. Neilsen is known throughout the gaming industry for his vision and commitment to providing customers with the highest quality gaming entertainment experience.

Neilsen has served as the principal officer of Ameristar Casinos, Inc., since the company’s public inception in 1993. Prior to that, Neilsen led the privately held casino hotel organization, consisting of Cactus Petes Resort Casino and the Horseshu Hotel and Casino, which comprise the foundation of the current Ameristar business.

In 2000, Neilsen orchestrated the purchase of properties in Kansas City and St. Charles, Missouri, from Station Casinos, Inc., which doubled Ameristar’s annual revenues, making it the largest transaction in the company’s history.

Raised in Las Vegas, Larry Ruvo is a senior distribution executive with a unique perspective on the complexities and demands of the hospitality and gaming business in Nevada. After working at both the Sahara Hotel and Caesars Palace Hotel during his early years in the industry, Ruvo opened the Frontier Hotel as a night manager, becoming the youngest manager at the time to oversee all hotel operations.

Ruvo’s focus on the wine business began in 1970 when he partnered with Steve Wynn to open a Las Vegas wine and spirits distribution company. In 1976, he joined forces with Harvey Chaplin, who bought his company, forming Southern Wine and Spirits of Nevada.

Serving as senior managing director of the organization since 1969, Ruvo has guided Southern Wine and Spirits to become Nevada’s largest wholesale liquor, wine and beer importer and distributor. A board member of the AGA, Ruvo also is well known in the Las Vegas community for his longtime support of numerous charitable organizations, many of which deal with education and children.

"Craig and Larry are examples of how truly superior customer service can really make an --impact," Fahrenkopf said. "They both have earned the utmost respect and admiration of their employees and colleagues, which has translated not only into tremendous success for each of their companies, but to growth, development and innovation within the overall gaming industry."

The entertainers being inducted into the Gaming Hall of Fame this year also have made a significant impact on casino entertainment. Oscar-nominated actress Debbie Reynolds has starred in more than 30 motion pictures, two Broadway productions and two television series, and has been entertaining audiences at casinos in the United States and abroad for more than 55 years.

Reynolds shot to stardom as the female lead in the legendary "Singin’ in the Rain" and received a Best Actress Academy Award nomination for her famously feisty depiction of the title character in the "Unsinkable Molly Brown."

Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck — the first chef to be inducted into the Gaming Hall of Fame — is known for his dynamic personality and culinary inventiveness, which have propelled his culinary empire of fine dining restaurants to widespread fame.