Harrah’s bidder
a Vegas kinda guy

Oct 17, 2006 5:10 AM

David Bonderman may be the ultimate party animal, a very Las Vegas kind of guy, someone who does not mind spending big bucks in search of a good time.

A co-founder of Texas Pacific Group, one of the two equity funds combining forces to offer $83.50 a share or about $15.5 billion for Harrah’s Entertainment (as of several days ago), Bonderman knows how to produce a memorable evening.

He demonstrated that in 2002 when he invited some 300 guests to a birthday bash in Las Vegas as he turned 60. Those guests were treated to a dinner at the Bellagio where Robin Williams had been hired to provide the entertainment. They then adjourned to the nearby Hard Rock for a show provided by Bonderman’s favorite band, the Rolling Stones.

The price of the evening: at least $10 million, according to one educated guess at the time.

The birthday boy even distributed T-shirts to his guests emblazoned with the phrase "Bonderman Rocks Vegas."

Perhaps he and his people have saved a few. Perhaps they will even wear them at the Gaming Control Board licensing hearing a year or so from now, assuming the buyout offer gets that far.

Bonderman’s politics might also provide a bit of electricity in a state noted for its conservative approach to so many issues.

He backed John Kerry in 2004, according to a news account, explaining at one point that Bush was the "worst president since Millard Fillmore and that’s probably an insult to Millard Fillmore."

Internet uproar

Poker pro Daniel Negreanu remains a man with a demonstrated ease for putting his arms around certain complicated issues with very few words.

Just like when the pressure is on and he’s assessing an opponent’s probable hand at the poker table.

The Canadian-born Negreanu, a former Player of the Year who lives in Las Vegas, had his mind on another opponent during a recent phone conversation and Negreanu had the words for what he saw.

"These people are stupid," he said.

His sneering assessment of the amendment aimed at short circuiting the funding mechanisms that make Internet poker possible was attached to the Port Security Bill passed during the waning hours of the last session.

Port security and poker?

"That’s playing politics," he protested.

Which is what politicians do, I suppose.

What the lawmakers did was pass a bill and then in effect instruct banks to figure out how to do it.

Negreanu thinks it is simply not going to happen and others obviously agree.

"There’s too much money at stake," he said.

Negreanu pointed out that Neteller, an online bank based on the Isle of Man and popular with poker players and websites, "is not going anywhere."

The Full Contact poker site that bears Negreanu’s name does not expect to miss a beat as it switches Internet servers, moving from one that is publicly traded and whose officials felt a need to abide by the letter of the law as it currently exists, to a private company.

Neither are other well-known private poker sites abandoning the field. The list of those who vowed to continue in business includes such popular sites as Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars and poker legend Doyle Brunson’s personalized site, Doyle’s Room.

Collectively, their spokesmen and strategists include some of the best known and respected names in all of poker.

The way Negreanu sees it, those who decided to quit, walk away from what Negreanu and other strategists figure is a very winnable fight, are the publicly traded companies that do not want to deal with the heat they might get from regulatory bodies even as the battle over what’s legal heats up.

The world’s No. 1 site, PartyPoker, no longer deals to poker players with an American address.

Which may explain the sudden about face by No. 2 PokerStars, which decided to continue doing business with American addresses just days after it said it would be leaving the field.

By virtue of PartyPoker’s decision to discontinue U.S. service, PokerStars is suddenly the No. 1 Internet site in the universe.

When PartyPoker dropped its sponsorship of cable television poker shows, the marketing execs at Full Tilt quickly jumped in to buy the time.

Like Negreanu was saying, the billions of dollars in revenue generated by Internet sites big and small, respected and not so respected, is too much for many businesses to walk away from.

Particularly when the legislation faces a mountain of challenges and it appears some parties are almost fighting among themselves to see who will be a test case, assuming the Justice Department ever attempts going after a website.

Names surface to fill
Siller’s GCB post

Public Safety Director George Togliatti looks like a good bet for an appointment to the State Gaming Control Board when former FBI agent Bobby Siller completes his second term at the end of the year.

This is all a bit speculative since a lot can happen in a couple of months, but those familiar with the apparent shape of Gov. Kenny Guinn’s current thinking say this is the way it looks.

Guinn’s Chief of Staff Keith Munro supposedly has the job IF he wants it, but there is reason to believe he does not want it and expects to choose another job option.

The governor has already declared his intention to name Dennis Neilander to a third four-year term as chairman of the Control Board.

Togliatti, like Siller, is a former FBI agent and his presence on the Board would continue the tradition that at least one of the three members have a law enforcement background.