Hubbard hopes bill will be law

January 30, 2001 6:59 AM
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Even before he sold his racetrack, R.D. "Dee" Hubbard saw the value of expanded gaming. As chairman and CEO of Hollywood Park, Inc. (HPK), he had an unused building on the clubhouse converted into a world-class card room.

Unfortunately, California state law prohibited a public company from operating a gambling facility — exclusive of racetracks, of course.

Many of the 250 card clubs hoped for approval to install slot machines, but nothing has been forthcoming on the legislative front — until now.

Sen. John Burton, a close friend of Hubbard’s, has filed a bill that would exempt Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. from the law prohibiting publicly traded corporations from operating gambling facilities.

The move has come under substantial criticism by some, who point out that Hubbard, owner of the Bighorn Golf Club and Estate in Palm Desert, conducts the annual (Sen. John) Burton Golf Tournament at his club.

Burton ignores the criticism, saying, "If you can own a card club, you ought to be able to operate it."

After selling the company horse racing facilities and changing the name of his company to Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. (PNK), Hubbard kept the Hollywood card club, hoping eventually to see a change in the law.

So far, gambling in the Golden State has remained static — except for the explosion of Native American casinos.


Is Stations becoming too big?

By JIM BARROWS

In casino conglomerates, how big is too big?

Nevada regulators will be taking a look at rules designed 30 years ago (read that, to target billionaire Howard Hughes) to keep mega-moguls from having a stranglehold on their business suppliers.

The matter came up as the Nevada Gaming Commission was approving Station Casinos’ purchase of The Reserve, a hop and a skip away from Station’s Boulder Station and Sunset Station — and, come December, its Green Valley Ranch casino farther west.

That’s a concentration of more than half the "locals" market in the southeast part of the valley, commissioners opined. The old regulation had a 10 percent cap, but applied countywide. Station execs earlier in the month had assured Gaming Control members they were under the 10 percent cap.

It kicks in when regulators consider gaming revenue, room count and number of employees for each mega-group. Some of that is confidential data that regulators tally.

Frank Schreck, who represented Station at The Reserve hearing last Thursday, was a member of the gaming commission (1971-’75). Asked about the regulation’s history, he said it was adopted some time during his commission term. The concern during those Howard Hughes’ buying spree days, he said, was that a (gaming) company could get so big, it could get a stranglehold on vendors and drive some of them out of business "with their aggregation of purchasing power."

When commissioners indicated their concern about Station’s strength in the Henderson "locals" casino area, Station CEO Glenn Christensen told them, "There’s nothing to prevent people from going to the Strip or downtown."

Which led to a discussion of what is a "local."

Chimed in Commissioner Augie Gurrola: "A local is someone who only goes to the Strip when he has guests."

"The regulation is 30 years old," concluded Chairman Brian Sandoval. "It’s time for a review." They will, but no date was set.

Christensen and Schreck said because of The Reserve’s proximity to Sunset Station, "it won’t have the ‘Station’ brand for a while." The company will concentrate more on "implementing Station’s methods" than on re-theming the property, for now.


Bettors can take chances with in-state schools

Nevada gaming regulators, after five rounds of shadow boxing, finally get the NCAA in the ring.

They changed the rules Thursday, allowing Nevada bookmakers to take bets on Nevada college teams and any visiting college teams that happen to play in Nevada.

The new rule takes effect Feb. 7, several weeks before the Mountain West college basketball tourney in Las Vegas. University teams from Las Vegas and Reno have contests in the three days after Feb. 7.

It was the fifth hearing on proposed gaming regulation changes, noted Gaming Commission Chairman Brian Sandoval, and the NCAA continued to criticize from the sidelines without offering any input at the hearings.

The new regulation bans betting on high school games, "though that’s never occurred to my knowledge," Sandoval added.

Nevada books haven’t accepted bets on Olympic teams since the 1992 Dream Team.

"It is an important step for Nevada to work with the NCAA," he said, "and if they are aware of any illegal bookmakers coming to Nevada, this gives them the opportunity to advise the Gaming Control Board."

The revisions ban college coaches and athletes from wagering; require books to report "suspicious activity" on such wagering; and add sports fixers to the definition of those banned from casino properties in Nevada’s "Black Book."

Meanwhile, some members of Congress and the NCAA are pushing for a total ban on legal sports betting. It applies only to Nevada.

The state’s public officials argue that would only drive bettors to illegal bookmakers and Internet casinos, which are also unregulated.

Attorney Robert Faiss, representing MGM Mirage at the hearing, noted that the 10th Amendment (to the U.S. Constitution) leaves gambling to the determination of each state. The conglomerate’s co-chief executive officer, Dan Wade, accused the NCAA of being "disingenuous. I hope they will come aboard."

Sandoval said NCAA officials indicated "they were willing to meet with our regulators after today."

The 10th (so-called States’ Rights) Amendment says: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people."


CMA Associate

David Atwell, President of Resort Properties of America, is a 45-year resident of Las Vegas, a UNLV graduate and a hotel/casino brokerage specialist. In 1979, he became the youngest real estate professional to handle a Las Vegas hotel deal. He represented Caesars Palace in their property expansion that is now the Forum Shops and received significant recognition in 1988 for the sale of the Dunes Hotel/Casino.

His firm is currently exclusively representing a prime 16-acre site at Harmon and the Strip for Lakes Gaming.


Despite setback, Conway wins award

Despite the adversity Mike Conway faced getting his National Airlines off the ground, the "brazen, hard-spoken native of Brooklyn, N.Y." has been named "Airlines Person of the Year" by Travel Agent magazine.

The selection committee said the choice was made in the face of National’s bankruptcy filing because "Conway still seems well on the way to making his fledgling carrier a success," the committee said.

The committee added Conway was "one of the last true supporters of travel agents in the airline industry, holding to a base commission of 10 percent (with no cap) even as every other domestic carrier has cut the pay rate.

"As anyone who heard him speak at the ASTA World Travel Congress in Las Vegas can attest, he believes travel agents remain his best form of distribution," said the group’s spokesperson, Lark Ellen Gould.

National Airlines, the only Las Vegas-based airline operating, was launched in May 1999. It became profitable within 11 months, an unprecedented achievement. However, the sudden rise in fuel costs (they nearly doubled in three months) quickly eliminated the profit factor.

Late last year, National Airlines filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection while Conway seeks additional financing.

"Conway is no newcomer to the airline industry," wrote Gould. "He has more than a quarter century of airline experience, including 11 years at Price Water-house, where he specialized in airlines and large multinational corporations.

"The co-founder of America West Airlines, he helped that carrier successfully emerge from bankruptcy protection.

"Not surprisingly, Conway believes National’s Las Vegas niche still has enormous potential," she said, noting that McCarran Airport reported more than 36 million passengers last year.

The airline offers an average of 28 daily roundtrips to nine destinations, all non-stops from Las Vegas, on comfortable 757s. It features two classes of service, all at competitive discount fares, and first-class and walkup fares much lower than the competition, the magazine noted.


Where are the Goodfellas?

By: GT Staff

Last Saturday unfolded as a caricature day for a mob funeral. It began with a slight drizzle and progressed to dark and gloomy.

With a sense of anticipation, the scenario should have started with a string of limousines pulling up to Palm Mortuary.

From the limos, well-dressed men in pinstripe suits would climb out and form a tight knot around a solitary gentleman, then whisk him past onlookers and the federal agents, who would watch and secretly photograph the scene.

Inside, a procession of dark figures would file past the open casket, nodding their heads, crossing themselves or even whispering words of farewell.

None of this happened Saturday. Instead, the funeral of Natale "Chris" Richichi attracted a handful of friends, loved ones and family members. They gathered to say good-bye to "a devoted husband, loving father and honorable friend."

Richichi died in federal prison last week at the age of 84. He was convicted in the mid-1990s of fraud, extortion and racketeering. The one-time Las Vegas resident had been connected with the Gambino crime family and was purportedly an associate of New York crime boss John Gotti.

But on this day, his checkered past remained distant. His transgressions were eulogized as burdens that no longer carried weight. Even though "some have suffered because of his choices … they don’t negate the positive aspects of his life."

Nevertheless, one would have expected Richichi’s former associates in New York and New Jersey to fly into town and pay their respects. It would have been a small price to pay, even on Super Bowl weekend.

But as one quipped, "Maybe Chris outlived them all." That’s possible. Or perhaps they didn’t remember.

Those who did, remembered him fondly.

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, who did not address the small gathering, had said that Richichi was his favorite client. Moreover, Goodman said in published reports that Chris "was a gentleman … and honorable in his word and deed."

Richichi’s sister, Nancy, recalled a brother "whose gift was unconditional love."

She called Chris a passionate person, and said he was bedridden for the last two months of his life. Yet federal authorities would not grant Chris a compassionate release so he might "die with his family."

"If a dying man can’t have a compassionate release, then who can?" she asked.