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History abounds in chairman’s final commission meeting

Updated September 26, 2021 - 3:36 pm

The Nevada Gaming Commission’s board room was oozing with history when the five-member — make that four-member — regulatory board gathered Thursday.

This was to be the last meeting for Commission Chairman John Moran Jr., who announced his retirement in August after notifying Gov. Steve Sisolak three months ago of his intention to step down and give someone else a chance to oversee Nevada’s most important industry.

Moran’s departure will take the commission down to three members since Sisolak has yet to replace Deborah Feutsch, who left the board in May. Unless Sisolak makes an appointment between now and the next commission meeting, Oct. 28, Vice Chairman Steven Cohen will run things.

One historic decision came out of the meeting as commissioners gave MGM Resorts International final approval to buy out Dubai World, its partner in the development of CityCenter, for $2.1 billion.

When the Dubai World licensing was approved in 2009, it was something regulators had never seen before because the company was owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board and the Nevada Gaming Commission, which included Moran, worked through the complications of gathering background on key corporate leaders and asking whether they would be influenced by government leaders in their corporate decisions.

On Thursday, longtime Las Vegas gaming attorney Jeffrey Silver of the Dickinson Wright law firm was representing William Grounds, president and chief operating officer of Infinity World Development Corp., a Dubai World subsidiary, in the matter of terminating its registration as a holding company to end the partnership.

Attorneys attending a board member’s final meeting often exchange pleasantries and wish them well in their future endeavors.

As Silver applauded Moran for his service, Moran turned the tables and congratulated Silver on his future induction to the Gaming Hall of Fame at next week’s Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas. Not only is Silver a notable gaming attorney, he also served as a Nevada Gaming Control Board member in one of its most turbulent eras.

As the two talked about their experiences, they realized that a role reversal was playing out — Silver was representing a gaming client on Moran’s last day and Moran, as a young attorney representing gaming clients in the late 1970s, appeared before Silver in his regulatory role.

But Silver had a bigger part in Nevada history when he sat on the board. He was appointed by then-Gov. Mike O’Callaghan at a time when the state was attempting to ferret out gangsters and organized crime and Silver, then 29 and the youngest Control Board member ever appointed, had experience asking tough questions as a prosecutor.

When the Control Board’s offices were on Maryland Parkway near UNLV, Silver got the job of interrogating reputed mobster Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal about his suitability as a licensee when he was seeking permission to run the Stardust.

Rosenthal was represented by former defense attorney and ex-Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman. The movie “Casino” included scenes depicting the era and then-Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Harry Reid.

Silver said he later learned that mobsters were considering assassinating “Silverman,” but mob associates changed their minds.

“They figured whacking me would stir up too much heat,” Silver said in an interview.

Silver’s role in removing bad actors from the state and ushering in the era of corporate ownership of casinos caught the attention of the independent committee that reviews potential nominees for the Gaming Hall of Fame.

Could roles again be reversed and Moran’s service to Nevada gaming someday land him in the Hall of Fame?

“Given his history in the state of Nevada and with the gaming authorities, he certainly would qualify,” Silver said. “They’ve put other regulators in there and he’s in the same category as them. I absolutely think he has the opportunity to do that.”

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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