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Gaming Guru

Richard N. Velotta

Golden Nugget Pays $30,000 Fine

25 February 2005

LAS VEGAS -- Executives of the downtown Golden Nugget resort paid a $30,000 fine Thursday, wrapping up a state complaint that addressed sports book wagering irregularities and an incident in which a Nugget executive misdealt cards at a blackjack table during a celebrity event.

The three-count complaint was filed last month by the state Gaming Control Board.

The Nevada Gaming Commission unanimously approved the settlement Thursday and the property's outside lawyer Ellen Whittemore delivered the check after the vote was taken.

No Golden Nugget executives were present at the meeting and the commission's disposition of the matter took less than five minutes.

The fine was well below the maximum punishment regulators could have doled out. Gaming Control Board officials said the casino could have been assessed fines of $100,000 per count, or $300,000 to settle the entire matter.

Houston-based Landry's Restaurants Inc. announced it is acquiring the Golden Nugget for $295 million. The disciplinary action has nothing to do with the sale, company executives have said.

In a stipulation signed by Golden Nugget partner Tim Poster, he admitted to allegations that he misdealt cards at a blackjack table following a celebrity event. However, he did not admit to wrongdoing, but acknowledged the board could meet its burden of proof on allegations involving irregularities in wagering on a golf tournament in the casino's sports book.

The agreement said the violations "were neither intentional nor the result of willful disregard for regulatory compliance."

The blackjack incident occurred June 12 when the Golden Nugget hosted a "meet and greet" event involving cast members of the HBO crime drama "The Sopranos."

When the event was nearing an end, cast members went to the main casino floor and began playing blackjack at one of the tables.

Poster observed play, then decided to deal the game himself. In four hands dealt, Poster switched cards, distributed cards out of sequence, revealed a hole card, took additional cards to facilitate a bust and allowed customers to enter the game late and continue to add to their bets.

Investigators said Poster's actions constituted "an unsuitable method of operation."

The sports book incident involved wagers from a gambler who bet on the outcome of the St. Jude's Federal Express golf tournament May 27-30.

Investigators said the gambler placed bets May 29 after the casino set odds for players to win the tournament with one round remaining to be played. The sports book posted the wrong odds in association with the wager and the gambler placed several bets to avoid suspicion, each time betting an amount that would not invite a supervisory review.

The bettor eventually wagered $2,700 on the golfer and when the tournament ended was entitled to collect $48,600. When the gambler came forth to collect his winnings, Nugget officials cited the error on posting the odds and refused to pay, offering instead to refund the gambler's bets.

One count of the complaint cited the casino's failure to honor the winning tickets and rescinding the wager and the second count cited the casino's failure to report a patron dispute to the Control Board.

State regulations require notification of authorities on any patron dispute involving winnings in excess of $500.

Regulations also require permission to rescind a wager.

In other business Thursday, commissioners approved tax refunds to two casinos, the first of what is expected to be a lengthy parade of refund requests resulting from a computer glitch on a progressive slot machine game. The board also approved licensing for a man who lied about drug arrests that occurred in the 1970s.

The commission approved settlements refunding overpaid taxes to the Carson Nugget Inc. for $4,032 plus $564 interest and the Boomtown Reno for $140 plus $5.27 interest.

But those two claims, one from September 2002 and the other from May 2004, are only the first of more than 30 such requests headed to the commission in future meetings.

A programming error in International Game Technology's Totem Pole and Survivor wide-area progressive games miscalculated the amount of taxes due after jackpot payouts. As a result, all casinos participating in those games are due a tax refund and each must receive commission approval.

In another matter, commissioners unanimously approved licensing for James Robert Caddel as a key employee at Sturgeon's Log Cabin in Lovelock.

Commissioners grilled Caddel for lying to Gaming Control Board agents about his involvement in a marijuana bust involving a shootout with police officers in Texas in the 1970s.

Board members weren't as concerned about Caddel's involvement in the incident as they were about his lying to agents about the matter.

Commissioners agreed to a two-year limited license because the casino is affiliated with the respected Cashell family of Northern Nevada.