Regulators recommend Nazarian for one-year limited license

SBE Entertainment CEO Sam Nazarian, the visionary behind the SLS Las Vegas, nearly found himself on the outside looking in at the Strip resort Wednesday.

Nazarian, 39, was recommended for a one-year, limited license by the Gaming Control Board following a more-than-3½-hour public hearing in Carson City that included testimony over drug use earlier this year and his dealings with an extortion suspect who cost him $3 million.

The Nevada Gaming Commission will make a final ruling on the recommendation on Dec. 18.

Nazarian’s Los Angeles-based nightlife and hospitality company owns 10 percent of the hotel-casino, formerly known as the Sahara. San Francisco-based Stockbridge Real Estate owns 90 percent of the property and Terry Fancher, the company’s executive managing director, serves as SLS’ chief executive.

Nazarian has been credited as the driving force behind the $415 million renovation project that revitalized the 1,620-room hotel-casino on the Strip’s north end.

The ruling doesn’t change the property’s ownership or management structure.

The Control Board’s 2-to-1 vote for the limited license came with six conditions, including one barring Nazarian from involvement with the resort’s casino operation and one requiring him to submit to random drug testing.

The recommendation for the limited license came after regulators said they would not vote to give Nazarian a full gaming license that would let him dictate SLS Las Vegas’ operations. Board members also considered doing nothing with the application by referring the matter back to its staff.

“Mr. Nazarian is really the face of the property,” Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett said. “Referring the matter back does nothing. I don’t want you to be a denied applicant.”

At the hearing’s outset, attorney Tony Cabot told the Control Board that Nazarian’s business dealings over the past two decades “were complex.” More than 24,000 pages of documents were electronically transmitted to investigators. Thousands of other documents were hand-delivered.

However, the bulk of the hearing revolved around the extortion suspect and Nazarian’s drug use.

At the hearing, Nazarian admitted he used cocaine during an April trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, with several friends. He said it was a “one-time indiscretion” and that he hadn’t used drugs in several years. He admitted that he was evasive with gaming agents about the incident.

Control Board member Shawn Reid, who voted against the limited gaming license, said he was troubled that Nazarian’s drug use took place “in the middle of his license investigation.”

Board members said they were concerned how the businessman, whose empire includes some of Southern California’s most popular nightspots and a growing line of SLS hotels, dealt with Derrick Armstrong, a Los Angeles-based convicted felon.

Nazarian said he met Armstrong, an automobile detailer, in 1999. Over the years, Nazarian lent Armstrong money.

However, the relationship soured in 2005 and Nazarian cut ties with Armstrong. Over the next few years, Armstrong would surface, demanding money from Nazarian.

“He seemed to show up as my accomplishments grew,” Nazarian said.

Eventually, Nazarian asked SBE Entertainment executives to deal with Armstrong when he began threatening family members. Los Angeles-based attorney Joseph Taylor, who specializes in litigation and entertainment law, was hired to fight Armstrong’s requests. An injunction was filed against Armstrong and he legally can’t go near Nazarian.

“My city, it’s a city of barnacles and parasites, clingers and hangers-on,” Taylor told the Control Board on Wednesday when asked about Armstrong. “They are everywhere.”

SBE executive Randy Winograd told the Control Board he was charged with dealing with Armstrong. He made payment to him last year, hoping that would end the contact.

“This guy was making claims to embarrass Sam and the Nazarian family,” Winograd said. “I screwed up. I failed Sam badly.”

Nazarian took full responsibility for the dealings with Armstrong. Nazarian admitted paying to Israel-born mob figure Hai Waknine $83,000 and rap music mogul Marion “Suge” Knight $90,000 because of their connections to Armstrong.

“The buck stops with me,” Nazarian told the Control Board.

However, Reid said he worried that Nazarian could be “easily manipulated” and that he was trying to hide his dealings with Armstrong.

“You seemed more worried about PR than doing the right thing,” Reid said.

Burnett, who appeared to be the board member most disposed to saving Nazarian’s application, said he was disappointed that Nazarian didn’t go to law enforcement to deal with Armstrong.

“When you have a barnacle, you cut it off,” Burnett said.

Control Board member Terry Johnson supported the limited license, and also came up with several of the conditions, which included avoiding questionable associations.

“I was hoping for greater candor in your answers,” Johnson said. “I understand you’re a busy man and you have attorneys to handle all that. But I was a little taken aback by your answers. I can’t recommend an outright approval of the application at this time.”

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at or 702-477-3871. Find him on Twitter: @howardstutz.

MGM Grand Plans To Add Retail And Dining To Its Strip Facade
MGM Grand President and Chief Operating Officer Scott Sibella said executives are “discussing redeveloping that entire frontage of the building out to the Las Vegas Strip.” (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Boyd Gaming planning new corporate campus
Casino operator Boyd Gaming Corp. has filed plans to build a new corporate campus. The plans call for two 10-story office buildings and a six-level parking garage in the southwest Las Vegas Valley. Boyd Gaming operates The Orleans, the Suncoast, downtown's California Hotel and other properties. The new headquarters would be just a mile from its current main office building.
Bellagio Conservatory transformed to celebrate Year of the Pig
The Bellagio Conservatory Team transformed the 14,000 square foot conservatory to commemorate Chinese New Year, the holiday that marks the end of the coldest days of winter. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Intro uses sound to connect people
Intro, a startup that is part of the Future Worlds Accelerator in the UK, has an app that uses ultrasonic sound to find people and companies nearby.
CES 2019 Video: CES wraps up another year
Time-lapse video of the action at CES 2019 in Las Vegas. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Create your own beauty products
Beauty Mix by BeautyByMe is a product that lets you create your own cosmetics and beauty products. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Picobrew’s home brew machine
Picobrew brings automation to homebrewing. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Surviving CES
What it's like to spend four days working the mammoth tech convention. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Haier’s smart home
Haier presented smart home technology at CES 2019.
CES 2019 VIDEO: Foldimate makes laundry day easy
Foldimate has created a machine that will fold your laundry for you. Just feed it anything you need folded and it will do the rest. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Opte device corrects skin spots
Opte from Proctor and Gamble is a device for correcting spots and freckles from skin. It analyzes the area for spots and then covers them with a serum of matching skin tone. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Circa hotel-casino in downtown Las Vegas unveiled
Derek Stevens reveals Circa hotel-casino in downtown Las Vegas. He plans open by the end of 2020. (K.M Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Circa, new casino coming to Fremont Street
Casino owner Derek Stevens announces his new property Circa, coming to Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas in late 2020. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dreenk My Oeno makes wine suggestions
At CES 2019 in Las Vegas, the Dreenk My Oeno tells you all about wine.
Polaroid One Step Plus camera unveiled at CES 2019
Polaroid has moved into the digital age with its One Step Plus camera with Bluetooth. With the connected app, it turns your smartphone into a remote for the camera, along with filters and features.
Amazon is everywhere at CES 2019 in Las Vegas
Seemingly everything works with Amazon Alexa
LG Smart Mirror helps you dress snazzy
LG’s Smart Mirror is less of a mirror but more of an assistant to help get you looking snazzy. It takes your image and recommends clothes for you or matches existing clothes with new clothes, which can be purchased right from the mirror. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Underwater robots make waves at CES 2019 in Las Vegas
Robosea is a company dedicated to underwater robotics. They produce consumer robots for underwater filming as well as commercial products which can be used for underwater research. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019 - Victrola record players spin in Las Vegas
A new spin on an old favorite, Victrola record players are meeting a demand for retro products. The brand is also making furnitures with built-in speakers.
CES 2019: Slamtec robots ready to serve
Slamtec is a robotics company out of China whose goal is to provide solutions for laser localization mapping and navigation. They have created two autonomous robots that can be used in areas such as bars, restaurants and malls. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Mixologiq drink maker appears at CES 2019 in Las Vegas.
This is the Mixologiq drink maker.
CES 2019: Veritable smart garden
Let’s face it; not all of us have green thumbs. And herbs are particularly difficult to grow, considering their constant need for sunshine. Enter the Veritable smart garden from Exky, which does it all for you. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bonnie Springs Ranch near Las Vegas being sold to developer
Bonnie Springs Ranch near Las Vegas is being sold to a developer, set to close in March. Bonnie Springs, west of Las Vegas off State Route 159 — next to Spring Mountain Ranch State Park — spans more than 60 acres and was on the market for $31 million. The developer and his project partner are under contract to buy the ranch and plan to chop it up mostly into custom-home lots. The plans includes a 25-room motel, a restaurant and a 5,400-square-foot event barn.
Bone-conduction headphones form Aftershokz
Aftershokz offers bone-conduction headphones - headphones that don’t go in the ear.
CES Happy Hour party at Hangover Suite at Caesars Palace
Conventioneers mingled during the Hardware Massive CES 2019 Happy Hour Bash at The Hangover Suite at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Autonomous Cars and Futuristic Aircraft Rule CES
Day two of CES was dominated by autonomous cars and futuristic aircraft in the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center.
TekNekSavr fights neck problems caused by smart phones
Atiya Syverson invented the TekNekSavr to help fight neck and head problems caused by strains while typing on smart phones. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New eyeglasses know if you fall and call for help
The French company Abeye has created eye glasses that will detect if the wearer falls and call for help. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Company that creates vibrator-like device claims genders bias against CES
Lora DiCarlo is a women-run start-up that creates a vibrator-like device designed for female pleasure called the Osé. This year they were awarded the CES Innovation Award in the Robotics and Drone Category, but a month later the Consumer Technology Association, which runs CES, rescinded the award and their booth. Haddock and her team believe it is a reflection of gender bias and sexism in an industry with a long history of male domination.
CES-Wagz has new pet products
Wagz has three new products to help create better lives for your pets in a digital world. One is a collar with LTE tracking and an HD camera. Also a smart pet door that only lets your pet in and out. Lastly, a device to humanely keep Fluffy out of certain areas of your home. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like