High-roller salons’ price of admission: $1 million?

November 13, 2001 8:27 AM
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Worried about turning off high-rollers in a soft economy, casinos have persuaded state regulators to slash betting limits at Nevada’s new international gaming salons.

But state officials expect to stick by a $1 million “financial criteria” requirement for entry.

After initially proposing a $20,000-per-hand minimum bet, regulators have lowered their limit in the face of broad opposition from the gaming industry. Although MGM Mirage and other casino conglomerates had proposed the exclusive salons, the industry bridled at the idea of enforcing betting rules that might cramp players’ style.

“These people are quirky,’’ said one industry insider. “You can’t tell them what to bet or they’ll just tell you to kiss off and go somewhere else.’’

Nevertheless, the state legislation required some minimum figure. And regulators have settled on the same $500 bet set for slot play in the upcoming salons. Score one for the casinos bosses.

But Gaming Control Board member Bobby Siller told GamingToday that the state will insist that salon players meet a $1 million “financial criteria” for entry. Siller said this may be defined as total worth, net worth or some other category ”” including a $1 million up-front deposit. He also said that a combination of cash deposits and financial holdings totaling $1 million could qualify.

Earlier, the state had considered a $3 million minimum requirement, citing a survey that found high-limit players along the Strip averaged that amount. The $1 million figure was characterized as a compromise from an industry proposal of just $50,000.

Siller, a retired FBI agent, dismissed the low-ball figure, saying, “What are we doing here? I could qualify for that.’’

Each casino can set its own criteria and those parameters must be approved by the board, Siller said. The board also must OK any change in the guidelines in advance.

Caesars Palace president John Groom encouraged regulators to remain flexible, warning that hard and fast limits “put us at an extreme disadvantage with international competition in London and Australia.’’

The board is scheduled this week to hammer out the final language, including rules relating to around-the-clock video surveillance of the salons. If approved by the Gaming Commission, casinos could apply to open their high-limit rooms by early next year.