Friday, March 19, 2004 | 11:10 a.m.
Nevada gaming regulators forced a three-year-old West Sahara Avenue bar to turn off its slot machines Thursday afternoon after the club's owner failed to pay his quarterly slot licensing fees on time.
The Nevada Gaming Commission ruled Thursday in an evidentiary hearing that Bugsy's Supper Club, at 6145 W. Sahara Ave, failed to renew its restricted, 15-slots-or-less license because it didn't pay the quarterly fees by Jan. 30.
Bugsy's owner Gary Benson said this morning that he'll keep the supper club open while he applies to get the gaming license back.
Regulators told him they'd work as quickly as possible to expedite Benson's new application, and said they'd try to finish his paperwork in time to allow him to get a new license at the commission's next scheduled meeting, April 22 in Carson City.
Bugsy's employs 13 or 14 workers, he said.
Gaming Control Board Enforcement Division Chief Keith Copher said board agents would make sure Bugsy's slots are turned off and not available for play while the club is unlicensed,
Agents will place yellow tape with the words "Gaming Control Board" over the disabled slots coin slots or bill validators, Copher said.
Benson told the commission members that he had mailed his fee check before the statutory deadline of Dec. 31.
The mail wasn't postmarked until after the deadline, and Benson was notified by mail that he had to pay a penalty. Unfortunately for Benson, he paid the penalty with a check, and the check bounced after checks he'd deposited also failed to clear, leaving his account with less than he'd thought.
"I can assure you it will never happen again," Benson said. "It was my stupidity."
Commission members sympathized, but agreed with a deputy attorney general who advised the panel that the statute clearly says that licenses are deemed surrendered if fees and penalties aren't paid within a 30-day grace period.
Only if the commission voted to find that Benson paid the fees on time could the property keep its license, they were told.
Commission member Art Marshall appeared to be searching for a rationale to do just that, but the three other commission members present -- Augie Gurrola was absent -- wouldn't go along.
"This is really bad," said panel member, accountant and lawyer Radha Chanderraj, a new member of the state bar. "But I don't know how we can make a determination that the payment's been made on time."
Regulators said the strict rules force licensees to pay their fees in a timely manner, and they worried that interpreting Benson's situation liberally might allow other properties to similarly avoid prompt payment.
"I'm sure there's some sympathy for your situation, but we can't go against what the law says," commission Chairman Pete Bernhard said.