Las Vegas Sun

April 23, 2014

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Gaming veteran gets OK to operate downtown casinos

The Nevada Gaming Commission has given final approval to casino veteran Anthony F. Santo to operate three casinos in downtown Las Vegas that he said are “losing money every day.”

But Santo said he sees some hopeful signs in running the Plaza Hotel and Casino, the Las Vegas Club Hotel and Casino and the Western Hotel and Casino.

Negotiations are nearly finished for a $20 million loan to refurbish the Plaza, which will include upgrading rooms, new slots, improvements at restaurants and “lots of maintenance.”

Santo told the commission there would be “12 months of hard times” while construction work is under way at the Plaza, to be renamed Union Plaza.

Santo will remain a consultant for Tamares, which is the landlord for the three properties.

Commissioners cautioned Santo that Tamares can’t be involved in calling the shots on the operation of the casinos – and Santo said he understood the separation that needs to be kept.

Gaming revenue has been down 25 straight months in the downtown market – the latest by 11.6 percent in June compared to the same month last year.

The commission also granted a license to Patti Lynn Sarles Hart to be president, chief executive officer and a director in International Game Technology.

Hart told the commission there has been a decline in revenue and some 900 employees have been laid off in the 17 months she has been with the company. She told the state Gaming Control Board earlier this month that profits were down 7 percent in the third quarter of the fiscal year.

The company, she said, is moving from hardware to software in making its gaming equipment.

It operates in 300 jurisdictions, she said. The “strategic” office of IGT will be in Las Vegas but the manufacturing will continue in Reno, where there are about 3,000 employees. She will be based in Las Vegas.

The commission was scheduled to meet in Carson City on Thursday but the session was held in Las Vegas and teleconferenced to Carson City in an effort to save money. Four of the five commissioners are from Las Vegas.

The commission next year will switch two of its meetings usually held in Carson City, in June and December, to Las Vegas to cut costs. Two-thirds of the applications and related business involves Las Vegas-area casinos.

That will mean eight meetings in Las Vegas and four in Carson City. There will not be a switch in locations of the state Gaming Control Board.

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