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Gambling exec gets Fed post

Boyd Gaming Corp. Chief Executive Officer Keith Smith will become the first casino company representative on the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco’s board of directors. The announcement is being made today.

Smith, 48, will join six other directors on the Los Angeles branch board in providing economic information about the region to the Federal Reserve System.

Smith, who has been Boyd Gaming’s president since 2005 and who has been with the company for 19 years, said he will be able to offer economic data about the gaming and tourism industry, which has been hit hard during the recent economic recession.

“This position will allow me to provide the Federal Reserve with a great deal of information about the discretionary spending habits of our customers in the current economy,” Smith said. “Our business is more than just casino-centric. We see customers from all across the country, and these are people who spend money in our hotels, on food and beverage, entertainment, retail and in other areas.”

Smith is replacing Peter Thomas, managing partner of Thomas & Mack Co., on the board. Thomas was the first Nevada representative on the Federal Reserve Board. The appointment is for three years.

The Federal Reserve System is the nation’s central bank, formulates monetary policy, serves as a bank regulator and administers consumer protection laws.

Mark Mullinix, the Los Angeles branch manager for the Federal Reserve, said tourism is an important element of the economies of Southern Nevada, Southern California and Arizona, which fall under his branch. He thought it was significant that the casino industry had a seat on the board.

“The idea is to get representation from different sectors and different industries in order to speak more broadly on economic conditions,” Mullinix said.

“The entertainment and tourism industry is an important segment to our district’s economy.”

Smith said the casino industry includes nongaming businesses that allow operators to understand a cross section of consumer spending habits. Having gaming representation on the Federal Reserve signals the importance of the industry, Smith said.

“The commercial casino industry nationwide employs about 370,000 people,” Smith said. “That’s more than the auto industry. I think it’s good for Southern Nevada to have a representative on this board who can provide an economic snapshot of our community.”

Mullinix said that was part of the appeal of having Smith join the panel. His connection to other industries in Las Vegas broadens the board’s reach, he said.

“He should be able to give us good insights into what’s happening in Southern Nevada,” Mullinix said.

Smith held several executive positions with Boyd before becoming chief operating officer in 2001. He is now the vice chairman of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board of directors, chairman of the Nevada Resort Association and vice chairman of the American Gaming Association.

Smith was approached about the position when Thomas’ final term was expiring. Mullinix said Smith was part of a slate of candidates for the position, and he was unanimously chosen by the San Francisco office’s board.

“Personally, it’s a great honor,” Smith said.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz @reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871.

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