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Strip property may take Drai’s name

With the Gansevoort Hotel Group out, insiders are saying Drai’s is the leading candidate as the replacement name.

“That was the original plan before they got involved with Gansevoort,” said one of the sources.

Reverting to that scenario became a possibility when, in a shocker, Caesars Entertainment severed ties with Gansevoort last weekend after Massachusetts gaming regulators raised concerns over a Gansevoort investor’s alleged link to Russian mobsters.

The red flag arose last Friday in a background check during Caesars Entertainment’s bid to land the $1 billion casino project at Suffolk Downs in East Boston. The result: the Las Vegas-based gaming giant and Suffolk Downs parted ways.

If Hollywood nightclub impresario Victor Drai ends up with Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon being rebranded as Drai’s, it would be his latest jackpot from a Las Vegas gamble he took 16 years ago.

How the $185 million project came together, including the courtship of star chef Giada de Laurentiis, is detailed in today’s Q-and-A interview, which was conducted earlier this month with Drai, Caesars Entertainment executive Elaine Moore and Michael Achenbaum, president of the Gansevoort Hotel Group.

Go to normclarke.com for the interview, which was conducted inside Drai’s at Bally’s.

OMIDYAR IN NEWS

Former Henderson billionaire and philanthropist Pierre Morad Omidyar, who founded eBay, is reportedly planning to commit $250 million into high-quality journalistic ventures.

Omidyar moved from Henderson to Hawaii, his wife Pam’s home, about seven years ago to start a for-profit online news organization that focused on Hawaii.

In an interview with the New York Times this week, Omidyar said he was deeply engaged in the process of buying the Washington Post earlier this year before deciding to launch a general-interest news site that will focus on investigative and government accountability reporting.

According to reports, Omidyar would be the latest among his billionaire Internet contemporaries who, after amassing a fortune, decided to pour major commitments into journalistic endeavors and civic projects.

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos recently purchased the Washington Post for $250 million. Tony Hsieh of Las Vegas, who sold Zappos to Bezos four years ago for $1.2 billion, has committed $350 million to transforming downtown Las Vegas.

THE SCENE AND HEARD

Dave Oancea, the high-stakes sports bettor who reportedly plans to pay for the funeral of the good Samaritan fatally shot at Bally’s on Monday, has been working on getting a reality show. He was shooting a sizzle reel during Super Bowl weekend when his $8,000 bet on the Baltimore Ravens returned $200,000. Nightlife consultant Joe Vargas set Oancea up with Norma Sattiewhite, the mother of Kenneth Brown, who was fatally wounded outside Drai’s.

SIGHTINGS

Drai, talking business with a male friend during dinner Wednesday at Honey Salt in Summerlin. … UFC great Frank Mir serves as honorary kegtapper at 7 tonight at the Hofbrauhaus and I take a whack at it Saturday, the eve of the Oktoberfest finale.

THE PUNCH LINE

“Pope Francis suspended a bishop for spending too much on home renovations. The Pope caught the bishop filming an episode of ‘Flip This Church.’ ” — Conan O’Brien

Norm Clarke’s column appears Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Reach him at 702-383-0244 or norm@reviewjournal.com. Find more at normclarke.com. Follow @Norm_Clarke on Twitter. “Norm Clarke’s Vegas” airs Thursdays on the “Morning Blend” on KTNV-TV, Channel 13.

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