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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz

Violations doom bid by Glitter Gulch to add slots

8 September 2008

NEVADA -- The Topless Girls of Glitter Gulch strip club probably blew its chance of convincing Nevada gaming regulators it was a suitable location to house slot machines in February.

State gaming agents entered the Fremont Street club undercover twice to investigate the property. On their first visit, they were solicited for prostitution. The second time, the agents were asked whether they wanted to purchase illegal narcotics.

Friday morning's hourlong hearing in front of the Gaming Control Board spiraled downward after that revelation.

"This is a very troubling application because I have a lot of concerns about this location," control board chairman Dennis Neilander said toward the end of the hearing.

Board member Randy Sayre was even more forceful in his opposition to the request by the club to operate 15 bar- top slot machines. Of the 12 topless bars in the Las Vegas Valley, Topless Girls of Glitter Gulch had the second-highest number of calls for service by the Las Vegas Police Department. Sayre said he recently checked the totals.

"With this type of application, you have to come in here squeaky clean or as close to it as you can get," Sayre said. "There is absolutely no way I can support this location."

Control board members said there were numerous instances of dancers violating city of Las Vegas exotic dancing codes, according to the club's own records.

If the Topless Girls of Glitter Gulch can't control its dancers, board members reasoned, then its management would have trouble operating slot machines under Nevada gaming regulations.

Neilander, Sayre and fellow control board member Mark Clayton all said they philosophically are not opposed to strip clubs operating slot machines.

However, Topless Girls of Glitter Gulch didn't meet the qualifications.

"There are enough issues highlighted with this application that cause me great concern," Clayton said.

The control board referred the application back to its staff for further investigation at the request of Topless Girls of Glitter Gulch, rather than voting on the matter.

All three board members said they were prepared to deny the application.

If a unanimous denial had taken place, Topless Girls of Glitter Gulch would have needed a unanimous vote by the Nevada Gaming Commission to overturn the control board's recommendation.

The ruling allows the club to bring the matter up again with gaming regulators in several months, hopefully with a much cleaner background check. Clayton suggested the club try again in a year.

Sean McGuinness, the attorney representing the Granite Gaming Group, operators of Topless Girls of Glitter Gulch and two adjacent Fremont Street casinos, Mermaids and La Bayou, said the club has taken steps to eliminate the issues found by gaming agents. Since April, he said, the club has compiled a better compliance record.

The club brought in an investigative service this year that filed 60 reports with management showing there were none of the violations found by gaming agents.

Steve Burnstine, CEO of Granite Gaming, said dancers at the club are terminated immediately if they are found to have violated city of Las Vegas codes covering topless dancing.

Also, dancers can be terminated for a number of other rules violations. He said many changes took place when he purchased the downtown businesses from his father, Herb Pastor, in 2006.

Burnstine, who has an unrestricted gaming license for the two casinos, said revenues from the slot machines might have accounted for 20 percent of the topless club's total revenues.

He described the location as a nightclub with erotic dancing.

Sayre was not convinced the club was ready for a gaming license. He said club management implemented new rules only when confronted with the reports that undercover gaming agents were solicited for prostitution and drugs.

He also questioned Burnstine about a since-removed Topless Girls of Glitter Gulch Web site that linked to other questionable businesses. The site had been on the Internet since 2003.

Burnstine said that the site was not associated with the club and that he filed legal action in federal court to have it removed.

"I wasn't aware of the site until it was brought to my attention," he said.

Sayre expressed doubt in the answer because the site had been operating for five years.