Nevada gaming regulators are watching closely as Columbia Sussex begins what will likely be a contentious suitability hearing before the Casino Control Commission in Atlantic City this week.
Sussex is the private company that owns Tropicana resorts in Las Vegas and Atlantic City and, as one senior industry source remarked, "seems to be working overtime to offend all the wrong people."
Sussex failed last week to have the CCC barred from considering information in a Division of Gaming Enforcement report that suggests the Atlantic City Tropicana is not an example of the "first class" facility required by state statutes.
In a related matter the Commission has taken the unusual step of refusing to allow Columbia’s out-of-state general counsel Donna Moore to appear as a lawyer for the company.
A source explained, "She may be called as a witness and that could not happen if she is there as a lawyer."
Barry Shier back Vegas
Former senior Mirage Resorts executive Barry Shier is returning to active duty in the gaming business, joining the organization headed by Robert Sillerman whose interests include 85 percent of Elvis Presley Enterprises, 18 acres opposite CityCenter that will become a resort development, and a partial interest in a group that has made an offer for the Riviera.
Shier was executive vice president in Mirage Resort, a post he left just prior to MGM’s purchase of the company in May 2000. His talks with Sillerman began more than a year ago.
Shier’s focus will include the care and maintenance of Sillerman’s extensive intellectual property rights involving Elvis, Muhammad Ali, American Idol, the development of Graceland and last, but far from least, the Las Vegas property.
Sillerman will stage an Elvis show in the main hotel and casino at CityCenter. It’s being developed in partnership with Cirque du Soleil but this production will not be among Shier’s responsibilities.
Seminoles to expand
Class III games
Florida Governor Charlie Crist has given away more than he’s getting from the Seminoles who now have a 25-year compact enabling them to operate the Class III slots to which they were already entitled and table games such as blackjack and baccarat.
It is the exclusive right to operate table games that gives Florida the right to extract an annual payment of sorts from the Seminole casinos, according to Dan Reiser, an Indian gaming specialist with the Lionel Sawyer and Collins law firm.
But Richard Winning, a co-owner at St. Petersburg’s Derby Lane track, lamented, "They (the state) never once came to the pari-mutuels and talked to us." Winning said Florida would receive more by simply giving slots to existing tracks instead of granting a table game exclusive to the Seminoles.
South Florida’s Broward County has three slot parlors paying a 50 percent tax on slot revenues at three tracks or frontons. Boyd Gaming owns the fourth property approved for slots but has not yet begun developing it. Voters in neighboring Miami-Dade will go to the polls in January to decide if pari-mutuel facilities there should be authorized to add slots.
Units of state and local government are racing to put together the local challenges that will likely delay implementation of the compact provisions.
Reiser speculated that litigation pitting various units of government against the state would probably be the most likely source of challenges to the compact.
Velardo bids adieu
Bill Velardo did not like the hand he believed he had been dealt as a top executive at the Las Vegas Fontainebleau development, so he found himself a better deal.
He has moved across the Las Vegas Strip to the job as president and chief operating officer at the, so far un-named joint venture of MGM Mirage Resort and Sol Kerzner, which is taking shape on 40 acres opposite the Sahara.
Velardo has been a successful gaming executive at a number of high profile properties in recent years, thanks in part to his relationship with Kevin DeSanctis, who brought Velardo into top positions at casino developments headed by Steve Wynn, Kerzner, Donald Trump and Chris Hemmeter.
Velardo reportedly left the Fontainebleau project because he was not satisfied with what one source described as "executive chemistry."