Sam Nazarian Set to Appear before the Nevada Gaming Commission in Late December
Sam Nazarian, the Los Angeles and Miami nightclub owner who refurbished the Sahara Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, is preparing to defend himself before the Nevada Gaming Commission. Nazarian went before the panel earlier this month, though reports indicate he did not make a good impression with the commissioners.
Nazarian is set to answer questions about his shady business contacts and his use of cocaine in the near-past. His various troubles caused the commission to revoke his gaming license, which would make his association with the Sahara Casino impossible.
Nazarian No Longer Chief Executive
That’s what caused the 90% owner of the Sahara Casino, Stockbridge Capital, to remove Nazarian from management of all his Las Vegas operations. It would seem Sam Nazarian stepped down from that position willingly and is still on amicable terms with Stockbridge, which presumably would allow him to return to his position if he gets it squared away with the Nevada Gaming Commission.
What Sam Nazarian Did
Sam Nazarian’s misdeeds might seem minor for the owner of nightclubs. For a casino operator, the instability surrounding his private and business life could bring unwanted attention from federal regulators and law enforcement personnel. Las Vegas officials and gaming executives are careful not to draw attention from the federal authorities, because of the city’s own history of mob ties.
While those ties are decades in the past, the stigma of mafia associations continues to linger around the Las Vegas Strip. Any hint of trouble causes Nevada gaming officials to become very concerned, which is just what happened when it became known that Sam Nazarian was making extortion payments to criminal figures.
Gaming Commission’s Investigation
That’s what was learned when the Gaming Commission began looking into Nazarian’s background. The commission found that Nazarian had paid $3 million in what appears to have been a blackmail case, over a several year period. Also, the commission’s investigators found that Sam Nazarian paid approximately $90 thousand to Suge Knight in 2011, for undisclosed reasons.
The investigation also turned up recent examples of cocaine use by Sam Nazarian. Michael Green, a UNLV professor of history with an association to the Las Vegas Mob Museum, told the Las Vegas Chronicle, “Sam Nazarian seems to be doing absolutely what he needs to be doing, and maybe a little more. But he’s paying for a lot of sins in that preceded him, and sinners.”
Gaming Control Board Comments
A.G. Burnett of the Nevada Gaming Control Board said of Nazarian’s earlier visit with Nevada officials and his recent moves, “They’ve certainly got the message.”
The Gaming Control Board recommended 2-1 after a December 3 meeting that Nazarian retain his license, but under limited circumstances. The license would continue only for 1 year, and they board recommended he not have direct control over Las Vegas affairs. Also, the Gaming Control Board recommended Nazarian undergo random drug tests, to assure he complies with local drug laws.
One-Year Probationary Period
After a year’s time, the Control Board would review the case and allow for a more permanent licensing situation–if Nazarian did well during what amounted to a probation period. The early signals are that Nazarian got the message, but outsiders won’t know for sure until his visit with the Nevada Gaming Commission later this month.
Even then, the LA club owner will need to prove over the course of a year that he understands the culture of Las Vegas. While Sin City has a reputation for wildness, the leaders of Las Vegas are, in many ways, trying to live down their past. As the situation in Macau has recently shown, a gaming hub is always going to be under a watchful eye, perhaps even an air of suspicion. Like the NBA power forward or the NFL safety who gets a reputation for bending the rules, Las Vegas casino owners are not going to get the benefit of the doubt, if any question should arise about their character, good conduct, and intentions.
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