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Gaming license holders feel heat; public can see results

During the past five months, gaming regulators have flexed their muscle over Las Vegas casinos, holding them accountable for failing to oversee the bad behavior of others.

First it was Planet Hollywood, which allowed a leased nightclub, Privé, to get out of control.

Then a topless pool at the Rio was raided and surprise, surprise, after a strip joint was put in charge of operations, there were charges of drug dealing and prostitution.

Most recently, the Palms admitted two poker tournaments operated by others were poorly managed. One ripped off 22 winners to the tune of $450,000; the other dilly-dallied for four months before paying what was owed a Las Vegas charity.

Stiffing tournament winners and failing to pay a charity promptly are among those things regulators say brings disrepute onto the state.

They’re right.

Gaming Control Board member Randall Sayre was blunt. “I do not want third-party operators to use Nevada licensees in an attempt to legitimize less than legitimate types of programs.”

The Palms admitted Nov. 5 it didn’t adequately oversee two poker tournaments in 2007 and has agreed to pay $100,000 to settle a board complaint — a $75,000 fine and $25,000 to cover costs of the investigation.

The poor tournament operators are Michael Eakman & Associates and the United States Poker League, but the Palms is being held accountable.

Eakman managed a tournament in August 2007 for the Jewish Community Center of Southern Nevada, yet failed to pay the charity its 25 percent cut for four months.

The Poker League held a tournament at the Palms in October 2007 and failed to pay the winners their complete winnings. Instead, the league offered half cash and the other half in postdated checks.

The 22 winners were shortchanged $450,000 when the poker league’s checks bounced.

One of the people in the tournament who got stiffed went to the gaming regulators and notified the Palms, owner George Maloof said Thursday. “All they did was notify us, and I went ahead and paid it.”

The $100,000 the Palms will pay, plus the $450,000 it cost to make the winners whole, is still less than the $750,000 Planet Hollywood agreed in July to pay — only $500,000 if the nightclub stays clean.

The Palms settlement awaits final approval by the Nevada Gaming Commission.

Meanwhile, gaming investigators continue scrutiny of the Rio topless pool under Sapphire Gentlemen’s Club operations. The Hard Rock remains under scrutiny, too.

Regulators are not wavering. The one with the gaming license, the one with the most to lose, is responsible for the actions of operators doing business on their property.

Ignorance is no excuse.

Sayre is being honored as Gaming Regulator of the Year by the International Masters of Gaming Law on Tuesday. The group praised his regulatory philosophy of “only the facts matter.”

I’d like to honor him for advocating transparency.

At his urging, the Gaming Control Board and Nevada Gaming Commission Web site at http://gaming.nv.gov has a link to formal “complaints” filed against gaming licensees and their resolution.

Actual documents filed since January are posted, with the Palms being the most recent.

The information was always public, but people had to request a copy. This way, it’s easily available to anyone with a computer.

“It’s something I proposed two or three months ago,” Sayre said. “Everything that takes place now will go on the site, and as time allows we will get more historical information up.”

I nearly swooned at his next statement: “They’re public documents, and we’re in the 21st century. It’s easy to put the stuff out there.”

Finally, a regulator who gets it without being pounded on the head with a Sunday newspaper.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/morrison.

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