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Rod Smith

Coffee CEO Applies for Gaming License

18 August 2006

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Jeffrey Fine, a local real estate investor and chairman of Fine Concepts, which owns 13 Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf franchises here, seems ready to try his hand at a new career -- casino management.

State investigators are wrapping up background checks in preparation for hearings on Fine's applications for licenses to run the Opera House Saloon and Casino and the Silver Nugget in North Las Vegas.

Nevada Gaming Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander said he expects the applications to be considered at the board's November hearing.

Neilander has had no meetings so far with Fine, who is also licensed as a shareholder at Barley's Casino & Brewing Co.

Insiders said licensing is likely, however, given that Fine already has been cleared by state regulators.

Rumors have circulated for months that Fine, son of local developer Mark Fine, had contracts to buy both gaming-qualified properties as well as an adjoining 7.5-acre recreational vehicle park.

Together, the three parcels cover 20 acres along North Las Vegas Boulevard.

Fine has declined to comment on any plans he may have for the properties and said he was in Israel this week and unable to comment until he returns.

However, Opera House General Manager Joe Guzzo said he understands Fine plans to remodel the Silver Nugget and triple its size.

Otherwise, Guzzo said he has not heard that Fine has any plans to upgrade or expand the Opera House.

Silver Nugget General Manager Jeff Southwick did not return phone calls about plans for the property.

Jeremy Aguero, a principle in Las Vegas based-financial consultants Applied Analysis, said any such gaming-entitled parcels are potentially very lucrative, whatever the development plans.

"I don't know how you can go wrong in Southern Nevada as long as he's paying a decent multiple for the property," he said. "We're going to have 3 million people here in the next 15 years. He (should) be able to throw off cash flow and make money.

"The fact is we're not issuing any more licenses and it's one of the few approved properties."

However, University of Nevada, Las Vegas professor Bill Thompson, who specializes in gaming studies, was decidedly downbeat about prospects for the project.

"It's a lousy location in terms of perception. Maybe he's going to spruce it up, but it doesn't have the demographics for a good locals casino," he said. "It's in an incredibly poor area. He could fill it up, but no one who lives anywhere else in Las Vegas would drive over there."

North Las Vegas Mayor Michael Montandon and Economic Development Director Mike Majewski did not return phone calls about the project.

Fine initially applied for his new gaming licenses in March and incorporated Silver Nugget Holdings in May, according to state records.

Besides the sale of the two North Las Vegas casinos, G.C. Investments in May paid $4.3 million for the undeveloped land behind the Silver Nugget, which is zoned for office use.

G.C. Holdings is headed by Las Vegas Sun Publisher Brian Greenspun, Fine's uncle.

Fine's father, who is chairman of Mark L. Fine & Associates, was involved in the early development of Summerlin and Green Valley. He was also president of American Nevada Corp., the Greenspun family's development arm.

Greenspun, a director of American Nevada, has an ownership interest in Barley's and in Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa, which is owned in partnership with and operated by Station Casinos.