(Fred Weinberg) – Back in the day, the Nevada Gaming Control Board took Frank Sinatra’s gaming license away from him for the Cal-Neva Lodge because of his alleged (and probably real but peripheral) connections with Sam Giancana.
There was a day when Las Vegas was heavily influenced by folks named Civila, Spilatro, Rosenthal, Siegel, Dalitz, Patriarca, Korshak, Costello, Lederer and, oh yes, the Teamsters’ Central States Pension Fund.
Harry Reid is reputed to have kicked all of those clowns out of Las Vegas in his years as the Chairman of the Gaming Commission.
Getting a gaming license these days involves hugely expensive investigations which place such licenses well out of reach of little guys. It can cost a half a million just for the investigation.
All of which begs several questions:
If MGM Resorts is such a great licensee, how come they are allowed to have an association in Macau with one Pansy Ho, whose father is arguably the Sam Giancana of China and who has admitted that her father financed her empire?
In supposedly mobbed up New Jersey, MGM was forced to sell half of a casino it didn’t even operate because of that association.
In Nevada, not so much.
And then there’s MGM’s association with Sheikh Rashid Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai and 50% partner in City Center. He (or his company) also has an approval from the Gaming Commission to own up to 10% of MGM.
How does a guy who built a city in the Middle East with slave labor get a gaming license in Nevada where guys like Spilatro were chased out and ended up in shallow graves in Southern Indiana.
Finally (but certainly not least), there’s the latest gaming owner and operator in the strip, Deutchebank.
The bank which financed Auschwitz in World War II for one Adolf Hitler financed and then foreclosed on and now owns and runs a 3,000 room hotel on the strip.
If merely having financed Auschwitz was the only sin which the German bank engaged in during the last 65-years, that might be one thing.
But two weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal reported that this fine, upstanding example of the banking industry paid the government of the United States about $536-million (that’s a half a BILLION dollars or about one eighth of what they say they have in the Cosmopolitan) to avoid criminal prosecution for touting illegal tax shelters.
But, by God they have a Nevada Gaming license.
Adolf would be so proud.
Now I know what you might be thinking.
This guy is still fighting World War Two. Or why shouldn’t we allow a casino company to take Arab money? Or, is it possible he’s biased because he’s Jewish?
Candidly, I do think that I wouldn’t personally patronize either City Center or the Cosmopolitan because of their financing for that reason. I grew up visiting relatives who had serial numbers tattooed on their forearms.
But what really makes me mad from a business perspective is the fact that these guys can get gaming licenses with very cursory investigations while a little guy who wants to get into the gaming business is going to be forced to undergo a protological exam before he is going to be granted a license to run the smallest of casinos. And many are simply turned down. Some because the gaming regulators don’t like their moral character. Imagine that.
Frankly, in a state which has a billion dollar budget gap, it sure seems like a misallocation of resources.
Did the Gaming Commission send investigators to Dubai? Did they look at the slave labor issue? Why is Pansy Ho an acceptable business associate for MGM in Nevada but not New Jersey? How can a foreign bank essentially plead guilty to a Federal felony but still get a gaming license?
When are we going to license the Russian mob?
How about the Iranians?
Or Al Qaeda?
Or have we already?
(Mr. Weinberg publishes the Penny Press)