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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz

Gaming industry passings noted

2 December 2009

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The passing of three individuals who contributed tremendously to the gaming industry since the 1970s needs to be noted.

Bill Velardo, 55, who started his gaming career in 1976 as a blackjack dealer at Caesar's Palace, died on Nov. 23.

Velardo served as vice president of table games at The Mirage when the resort opened in 1989.

Velardo served as the chief operating officer at Trump Plaza. He was also involved with the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, from the conception, building, expansion and opening of the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, one of the most profitable tribal casinos.

His most recent role called for Velardo to be chief operating officer of the planned joint venture between MGM Mirage and Kerzner International on the north end of the Strip that was halted due to the sagging economy.

Richard Fiore, 50, died on Nov. 27. He was considered an innovator in the slot machine industry.

Fiore began working at International Game Technology in 1981 and was credited with developing the first slant-top slot machine as well as the Megabucks design.

Fiore left IGT in 1992 and helped start the Idea Center in Las Vegas. He created the printing method for slot machine glass, a technique that is still used today by slot machine manufacturers. Fiore also worked for Mikohn Gaming Corp., had his own design group and became president of Sierra Design Group, which was sold to Alliance Gaming (now Bally's Technology) in 2003.

Las Vegas gaming attorney Jeffrey Clontz, 63, died on Nov. 17.

Clontz was well known to Nevada gaming regulators. He represented hundreds of clients in front of the Gaming Control Board and Nevada Gaming Commission in 1980s and 1990s.

A Las Vegas native, Clontz graduated from law school at the University of San Diego and served as an attorney for the control board. After years as a private practice attorney in Las Vegas, Clontz took a position with Don Laughlin as the attorney for the Riverside for 11 years before he retired.