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Nevada gaming license bid withdrawn after 2-day hearing

It took Nevada gaming regulators two days of hearings to reach a decision on whether to recommend the licensing of a Las Vegas table-game company executive.

After questioning Galaxy Gaming Inc. Chairman and President Robert Saucier and his attorney and financial advisers six hours Wednesday and two more Thursday, the three-member Gaming Control Board agreed to refer the licensing request back to its staff.

The board was on a path toward unanimously voting that Saucier be found unsuitable to be licensed in Nevada as a beneficial owner, officer and director of the company.

A new licensing would enable Galaxy to develop and distribute new games in Nevada. The denial by the board would have placed a major hurdle in front of the company for any approval.

The Nevada Gaming Commission had been scheduled to consider the recommendation at its July 27 meeting. The commission would have had the option of concurring with the board, overturning its decision with a unanimous vote or making it the first case ever to be subject to a new law that enables the commission to reject but not deny licensing, a move that would enable the company to continue to operate in Nevada without providing new games to customers.

Galaxy opted for the matter to be referred back to the staff. That means the company can return for consideration in the future, an option with merit since California regulators are reconsidering an action in that state and if it’s favorable to the company, it could change the outlook in Nevada.

It wasn’t easy getting to the decision reached.

While Galaxy has operated in Nevada for 17 years and has 583 tables in 82 casinos in the state, regulators in California, Oregon and Washington have had their doubts about Saucier, leading members to pepper him with questions in one of the longest regulatory hearings ever conducted by the board.

Saucier’s team, which included former Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Peter Bernhard as his attorney and former Control Board chairman and state Sen. Mark Lipparelli as a financial consultant, told the board that Saucier has assembled a sharp executive team that boosted revenue growth by 22.6 percent a year since 2007 and operated profitably for six straight years, boosting cash flow to $5.1 million in 2016 and slashing debt by $2.3 million in the last fiscal year.

Galaxy products — mostly side bets on traditional table games like blackjack — are operated by Southern Nevada’s big six casino companies, MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment, Wynn Resorts, Las Vegas Sands Corp., Boyd Gaming and Station Casinos. Saucier has hired management away from rivals Aristocrat and Ainsworth Gaming Technology and has placed high-profile executives on his board of directors and compliance committee.

Galaxy’s product line includes Lucky Ladies, Texas Shootout and Three Card Poker.

InSpokane, Washington, Saucier was president of the tribal Mars Hotel and Casino, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1997. and burned to the ground after being abandoned two years later It was there that Saucier developed his first table games.

In Oregon, Saucier was the subject of an Oregon State Police inquiry into a licensing application and was never licensed there.

Then, there was the four-member California Gambling Control Commission’s decision in 2013 to uphold an administrative law judge’s ruling that Saucier was not suitable to do business in California’s tribal casinos. The ruling came after a three-year investigation into Saucier’s business license applications. That’s the decision that’s under reconsideration and could be addressed by the end of the year.

The Control Board questioned Saucier about those and other issues, including one application in which he said he was a University of Nevada, Reno, graduate after taking courses at Western Nevada Community College.

“He had no intent to deceive anybody,” Bernhard told regulators. “He thought the classes transferred over to UNR from Western.”

‘Just sloppy’

While California authorities said a licensing application in that state was “a train wreck,” Bernhard said Saucier, who admitted to hating to fill out forms, was “just sloppy” with his efforts.

Regulators also questioned Saucier about hiring accountants who were indicted or convicted of crimes, criticizing him for not doing enough due diligence in his vetting process.

In explaining his plans to vote to deny, board member Terry Johnson said “train-wreck applications are a do-over opportunity.”

“I want to see things happen, not hear that they’re going to happen,” Johnson said.

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

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