Gaming applicant eyes another try

Aug 12, 2003 7:03 AM

A would-be casino developer who "blew up" at Nevada regulators two years ago when they denied his bid for a gaming license, plans to try again.

Luke Brugnara, a San Francisco real estate developer who bought the old Silver City casino across from the Stardust, said he expects to reapply for a gaming license within the next 30 days.

The Nevada Gaming Commission meets next week, but Brugnara’s application is not on the agenda.

Last week, Brugnara submitted plans to county planners for a new 304-room hotel-casino to be built on the site, which is located at Convention Center and Las Vegas Blvd.

Two years ago, Brugnara announced plans to build a San Francisco-themed resort on the property.

But Nevada regulators refused to recommend that Brugnara

receive a gaming license because of various run-ins with the law, domestic disputes and questionable business practices.

At the time, Brugnara did not take the Gaming Control Board’s findings well.

"He blew up and accused the board of protecting the interests of other gaming operators on the Strip," said a source who attended the meeting. "He actually became belligerent and threatened to sue."

The source, who works closely with regulators, said the Nevada Gaming Commission would be "hard-pressed" to approve an applicant who once tried to "intimidate" the board into approving his application.

"He has a lot of hurdles to overcome," said the source, who asked that his name not be used.

Brugnara’s current plans call for a $100 million resort that would feature a rooftop nightclub, and a pool/lagoon area. There would also be a 33,000-square-foot casino.

The hotel-casino would be built on an L-shaped parcel fronting Convention Center with an easement to access the Strip via an overhead walkway.

Brugnara sold one-third of his property last year to a developer who plans to level the Silver City Casino and build a Ross clothing store.

In the Gaming Commission’s meeting next week, regulators are expected to approve a proposal that would allow the Henry Brent Company to assume operations of the Lady Luck casino.

The group has been restructured since the original applicant, Andrew Donner, was denied a license because of problems with his income tax filings.

Donner, who already owns a string of Timbers slot bars, has vowed to reapply after he straightens out his IRS problems.

Two of Donner’s partners, Robert H. O’Neil and Keith E. Grossman, will assume the liability for running the casino in the meantime.

In other action, the Commission is expected to approve the sale of the River Palms Resort Casino in Laughlin to William Young.

The hotel-casino would be the second in southern Nevada for Young, who a few weeks ago gained approval to operate the Westin Casuarina, which was once the Maxim Hotel on east Flamingo Road.

Young also owns the Horizon Hotel and Casino at South Lake Tahoe.