Rio-Sapphire joint venture an inevitable merging of casinos and strip clubs

Sapphire Pool at the Rio, with tanned talent provided by Sapphire Gentlemen's Club, is making waves and is seen by some industry insiders as a glimpse of the future of the business tango between the casino and skin industries.

The adults-only outdoor club opened last month. Other resorts have topless pools, but if memory serves, this is the highest-profile joint venture between a casino company and a topless business. It's a move that wouldn't have gone over well with the Gaming Control Board when Bobby Siller was on duty, but obviously times have changed.

Have they ever.

A Rio press release enthuses, "The magnificent pool area boasts seven fully-outfitted cabanas with personal host, TV, refrigerator and plenty of beautiful eye candy."

Just think of the money Harrah's Entertainment will save on uniforms.

It's unclear to blogging visitors, however, whether it's supposed to actually be an outdoor topless bar. Its $30-per-male-customer admission price on weekends and "Brazilian" theme would make one think so.

Off the gambling Web site comes this observation from beyond the partition that separates the Rio pool from the Sapphire Pool: "What we encountered on the other side was absolutely mind-blowing. There they were, in all their glory, a bunch of dudes and just a couple of female stragglers with their bathing suits fully attached, covering their naughty bits. What? We don't necessarily feel like we had set our expectations too high, the pool is sponsored by Sapphire Gentleman's Club, but this was, in a word, disappointing."

Maybe it was a slow day.

I'd guess the intrepid Web reporter was willing to conduct his research as long as management was buying the beer. (Who says there are no good jobs left for Web reporters?)

On paper, the Rio-Sapphire hookup makes sense. The Rio is accentuating its sexy image. Sapphire is licensed, legitimate and knows its business. It touts itself as "the World's Largest Gentlemen's Club" with "more than 6,000 entertainers."

(As a side note, the seating capacity of the old Las Vegas Convention Center Rotunda was a little more than 6,000. In other words, that's a lot of entertainers.)

Now, if they can only get gaming regulators from spoiling the party.

Given the topless trade's reputation as a magnet for trouble -- do the names Galardi, Rizzolo and Pacman Jones generate any colorful images? -- it makes me wonder whether today's party profit will begin to cover tomorrow's hangover cure.

That assumes, perhaps naively, that corporate casino giants are still capable of embarrassment.

They're obviously willing to test the limits of their license in an era of casino marketing in which just about anything goes.

Admittedly, this might be yet another example of me being terminally unhip and behind the times. But the next time someone utters the words "gaming" and "reputation" in the same sentence, I hope it's on a comedy club stage.

In keeping with the spirit of unabashed commerce, consider this my bid for a concession at Sapphire Pool.

Forget the sun block. I want to sell Visine.

The poolside eyestrain figures to be intense.

FIGHT GAME FAME: When I learned that the late, great corner man and trainer Eddie Futch was going to be named on Saturday at the Sportsman's Lodge in Studio City to the California Boxing Hall of Fame, my only question was: what took so long?

Futch, who died in 2001 at age 90, helped Don Jordan win the welterweight title. He also worked corners for Alexis Arguello, Joe Frazier, Larry Holmes and Michael Spinks among many champions.

Eva Futch, Eddie's widow, received the news of her late husband's induction graciously.

"I'm honored and touched that they remembered his legacy," she said.

ON THE BOULEVARD: Now that he's won a dismissal of the 19 federal felony charges against him, personal injury attorney Noel Gage says he plans to write a book and have a movie produced about his experience. He was accused of conspiring with local doctors and others to deprive his clients of his "honest services."

Earlier this week after learning of the charges being dismissed by Senior U.S. District Judge Justin Quackenbush, Gage compared himself to the Duke University lacrosse players who were wrongly accused of rape.

We'll see whether Gage wants to include the outcome of the government's appeal of the dismissal in his story.

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