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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz

Chrysler's ex-boss in casino bid

8 January 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- A small casino company with former auto industry icon Lee Iacocca as one of its primary investors will take its first steps toward obtaining a Nevada gaming license next week.

Full House Resorts, which is headquartered in Las Vegas, is asking Nevada gaming regulators to approve its $25.5 million purchase of Stockman's Casino and Holiday Inn Express in the Northern Nevada community of Fallon.

The item is on the agenda for the Nevada Gaming Control Board's meeting Wednesday in Las Vegas.

Full House operates the Deadwood Gulch Resort in Deadwood, S.D., and manages an American Indian casino in Oregon and a racetrack casino in Delaware. The company is also developing Indian gaming projects in Michigan, Montana and New Mexico.

Iacocca has been a director for the company since 1998. Former Showboat Corp. executive Andre Hilliou, who operated the company's casinos in Atlantic City and Sydney, Australia, serves as chief executive officer and a director for Full House.

"This is a strategic purchase for the company where they can go into a small, locals market and make a big splash," said Las Vegas gaming attorney Tony Cabot of Lewis & Roca, who represents Full House.

Stockman's has an 8,400-square-foot casino with 280 slot machines and four table games. The adjacent Holiday Inn Express has 98 rooms.

Full House Resorts went public in late December, raising $21.3 million in an initial public offering. The company planned to use $10.5 million of the proceeds to fund its acquisition of Stockman's. Shares in Full House rose 7 cents, or 1.89 percent, Friday to close at $3.77 on the American Stock Exchange.

Gaming Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander said Friday he waived Iacocca's appearance in front of the panel Wednesday at the request of Cabot. Iacocca, who owns about 12 percent of the shares in Full House, is scheduled to be out of the country.

Cabot said Iacocca would appear before the Nevada Gaming Commission when the panel meets Jan. 25 in Las Vegas to act on the control board's recommendation.

Iacocca turned around the fortunes of Chrysler Corp. as the carmaker's chairman and chief executive officer in the 1980s. The manufacturer was on the verge of bankruptcy when he took over, appearing for the company in a national advertising campaign. He made famous the phrase, "If you can find a better car, buy it."

In 2005, he reappeared in a Chrysler advertising campaign.

In September, Full House announced that it had entered a consulting agreement with Iacocca in which the former automobile industry executive would help market and advertise the company and its projects over the next three years in exchange for stock incentives.