Ex-casino owner a Poster child for illegal sports betting

It simply wasn’t believable when Tim Poster told the Nevada Gaming Control Board he didn’t know it was illegal to place sports bets via the Internet.

Poster has lived in Las Vegas since he was 6, he’s owned two casinos, he’s worked for Steve Wynn, and presumably he can read news articles about online betting.

He said he knew it was illegal for offshore Internet-based companies to take his bets but claimed he didn’t know it was illegal for him to place the bets. Then he doubled down. He told regulators that even after he knew online sports betting was illegal, he kept right on doing it, at times betting $100,000 on a football game.

As reported by the R-J’s Howard Stutz, Poster told the board: “I wish I had not done what I did. I wish I had not bet on the Internet.”

That part is plausible because illegal sports betting was Poster’s downfall. He might challenge other concerns about questionable relationships and behavior, but his illegal betting was a slam dunk. He wasn’t going to overcome that by appealing for mercy to the Nevada Gaming Commission.

He showed some savvy by caving. He decided Wednesday against appealing the control board’s recommendation to reject his request that he be found suitable. By giving up, he didn’t have to show up at Thursday’s Gaming Commission hearing and answer more pointed questions.

Nevada gaming regulators’ decision to reject Poster instead of denying him actually ends up as a plus for Poster. He could work as a consultant or some lesser job that doesn’t require licensing. By taking half a baguette instead of fighting for the whole, he protected himself slightly.

Another plus in his decision not to fight the board’s decision is that Poster’s supporters, who showed up in Carson City on Dec. 4 for the grueling control board hearing, didn’t have to trot down to the Sawyer Building on Thursday and parade their heavyweight status before gaming commissioners.

The clout-wielding foursome who showed their support at the previous hearing were Poster’s former partner Tom Breitling, gamer Lorenzo Fertitta, retired gamer Marc Schorr and spin doctor Sig Rogich.

Another hearing would only give Poster another chance to bury himself even deeper by repeatedly and foolishly claiming ignorance of sports betting laws.

Ten years ago, Poster and Breitling, two dot.com millionaires, were up for licensing as owners of the Golden Nugget casinos in Las Vegas and Laughlin. Neither had any experience as gambling operators, only as enthusiastic gamblers.

They had earned the money to buy the hotel-casinos by forming Travelscape.com in 1998 and selling it to Expedia two years later for $100 million. They quickly sold the Laughlin property and said their plan was to change downtown by attracting high rollers and making the Golden Nugget hip and cool, promising it would be like the Rat Pack days.

After a year marred by their cheesy reality show called “The Casino” and their inability to turn a profit at the Golden Nugget on Fremont Street, they did what they had done successfully before. They sold the joint at a profit.

I was at that January 2004 hearing when Poster was licensed and preening before the reality show cameras. I recall how after the cameras were turned off, Poster made the comment as he left that he had never been a judgmental person. “I’ll have to be judgmental now,” he said regretfully.

But in the past 10 years, he wasn’t judgmental enough, as demonstrated unequivocally by his decision to bet on sports online, even after he knew it was illegal.

Now Poster has lost his opportunity to be the chief operating officer at Wynn Las Vegas.

Tim Poster judged all right. He just judged wrong. And paid the price.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call her at (702) 383-0275.