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Investigator questions PPE’s whale policies

Dec 3, 2002 5:03 AM

   The investigator in the Steve Mattes $8 million judgment against Park Place Entertainment said the gaming giant clear the air over its high-roller policies.

   Beau Wiseman, hired by Reno-based attorney Kevin Mirch, investigated the Mattes case for over a year. Wiseman said the federal grand jury decision was correct, but a surprise because it was the first time such a verdict ever went in favor of a customer asked to leave a casino.

   The jury verdict was a unanimous 8-0, with Park Place planning an appeal to a federal appeals court in San Francisco.

   “Park Place needs to settle a debt to the public,” Wiseman told GamingToday in an exclusive interview Monday from Reno. “They owe it to Las Vegas. I know if I was a high roller, I would take my action elsewhere if I didn’t think the game was there. There’s not 100 players in the world who gamble like Mr. Mattes does.”

   Wiseman said that a Las Vegas newspaper’s stating that Paris Las Vegas casino host Tom Bonanne received money from Mattes was documented during the trial that ended the previous week.

   “The fact the newspaper played it up big was because nobody was there at the trial when it first came out,” Wiseman said. “What they didn’t say about Bonanne was that he was much more than a casino host. He was a vice president.”

   The story reported that Bonanne was suspended from work for accepting $250,000 in loans from Mattes, reportedly to pay for real estate purchases. Bonanne was quoted as saying most of the money had been repaid.

   Wiseman said there were gifts of $5,000 to Bonanne made on two occasions from Mattes.

   “He also purchased some suits for Bonanne,” Wiseman said. “What I don’t understand is that Park Place knew about this two years ago and decided not to act (back then). They could have avoided a lot of bad publicity right then.”

Wiseman said that Mattes and Bonanne were once close friends, but no longer speak to each other.

   “There is no relationship now,” Wiseman said. “Bonanne betrayed that trust. I’m just glad we had a good jury and judge that believed in Mr. Mattes. Such a case not often gets tried.”

   Wiseman said that Mattes still wants to gamble in Las Vegas and advised Park Place to ask for a meeting to work things out.

“Mattes loves Las Vegas,” he said. “He still wants to play, it’s his way of relaxing. He works six days a week. I would expect a man with his resources could gamble anywhere in the world. He’s a good person, a good player and it would be foolish for Vegas to lose him.”

   A source at the trial and close to the case told GamingToday that there was more to the resignation of chief executive officer Thomas Gallagher than previously reported. The source implied that Gallagher’s departure could be connected to the Mattes judgment, as well as the handling of high rollers in general.

   “It’s about to enter a whole new phase,” the source said. “Gallagher was not highly respected in the industry. Usually where there is smoke there’s fire. A bonfire is about to start.”