No shortage of winners & losers

Dec 31, 2002 5:28 AM

Las Vegas is known for its winners and losers, and they always seem to make good copy. But the action doesn’t always have to take place inside the casinos.

Here are a few winners and losers we’ve found compelling from an up-and-down 2002.

Winners

Bill Paulos and Bill Wortman, a winning pair who have been on a winning streak without end. When they took over the operation of the old Regent in Summerlin, eyebrows went up because of the hole the casino had burrowed for itself. But through astute marketing and shuffling of amenities, the double Bill’s sent profits for the now Rampart Casino spiraling upward. Expect more of the same from their latest project, The Cannery in North Las Vegas.

Don Marrandino First it was Green Valley Ranch Station, then the Hard Rock Hotel and, now, Steve Wynn’s Le Reve. In just a couple of years, Marrandino has been thrust into the top spot of more top-flight hotels than many CEO’s experience in a lifetime. It will be interesting to see what Don does for an encore.

John Robinson We weren’t sure of where to put John — winner or loser ”” but because he remains atop the UNLV football program as both coach and athletic director after such a dismal season, he qualifies as a huge winner. Let’s hope the team can duplicate the feat next season.

Brendan Gaughan, the NASCAR-racing son of casino magnate Michael Gaughan and grandson of Jackie Gaughan, won Rookie of the Year honors in 2002. Expect bigger and better things from the talented race driver.

George Maloof The owner of the Palms Casino has enjoyed a great year in Las Vegas, if you consider running one of the hottest casinos in town a great year. Not only is his joint popular with patrons, it has become a magnet for visiting celebs, who have included Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey McGuire, Cameron Diaz, Carmen Electra, Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson.

Steve Wynn who successfully launched a multi-million stock and bond plan to generate the cash needed to begin building both Le Reve on the Las Vegas Strip, and a new Macau casino in the Chinese conclave.

Cliff Goodrich, longtime major domo at Santa Anita racetrack, who was plucked from obscurity after sitting on the sidelines for a couple of years to become executive vice president and general manager of Arlington Park for its owners, Churchill Downs Inc.

Chuck Di Rocco, publisher of GamingToday, who was honored for his many years of service to the gaming community with the Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the American Gaming Association.

Stan Fulton, founder of Anchor Gaming, who "retired" by buying a New Mexico racetrack and taking that small operation, through the addition of slot machine revenue, to become a major player in the thoroughbred industry by scheduling a $500,000 major prep race for the 2003 Kentucky Derby.

Robert Varkonyi (who’s that you say) of Brooklyn, N.Y., who defeated 630 opponents to win the $2 million top prize in the 33rd World Series of Poker at Binion’s Hotel/Casino in Downtown Las Vegas last May. Not a bad start for a first-timer to the world’s biggest poker event.

Joe De Francis, and his sister, Karin, who successfully sold off their two failing racetracks, Laurel and Pimlico, to Magna Entertainment Corp., while retaining both a 48% interest in the tracks and an 18% interest in future slot machine revenue.

Losers

Tom Gallagher, who was ousted from his job as president and CEO of Park Place Entertainment Corp. by the board of directors who felt the company was languishing because of its failure to establish itself as an industry leader.

R.D. Hubbard, who became a leader in the racing industry before transforming his company into a gaming enterprise only to be forced out of Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. after the company was fined for allegedly importing party girls to entertain high rollers at a riverboat in Indiana.

Mike Conway, founder of National Airlines, who fought tooth and nail to keep his airline, the only Las Vegas-based airline, aloft but was forced to discontinue operations when he failed to get support from the federal government.

 

Horse Trainer Bob Baffert, who not only blew the Triple Crown when his horse, front runner War Emblem failed to make the lead and crapped out in the Belmont Stakes, but who also lost one of his principal owners with the sudden death of Saudi Prince Ahmed Salman, owner of The Thoroughbred Corp.

Nick Bogdanovich, formerly the sports director at Mandalay Bay, lost his position because he accommodated a high roller, Charles Barkley, with a big bet. Sometimes, it doesn’t pay to be Mr. Nice Guy.