Inside gaming column: Amid wave of scandal, gaming execs untainted

18 December 2006

Editor's note: Gaming Wire editor Rod Smith, who joined the Review-Journal in 2002, died Thursday at age 60 after a two-year battle with cancer. Smith's wife, Fran, said after his death, "He was most proud of having his work published." This is Smith's final column.

Despite the scandals rocking Capitol Hill, the gaming industry has come through squeaky clean. Insiders say much of the credit is due to gaming leader's past political experience. They cite MGM Mirage Chief Executive Officer Terry Lanni's service 30 years ago in the White House under President Ford. They also cite American Gaming Association President Frank Fahrenkopf's service as chairman of the Republican National Committee 20 years ago when President Reagan had to come clean over the arms-for-hostages deal. Lanni also sits on the board of trustees of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation. Gaming, especially with its unique gangland past, wouldn't have come out so clean without the backbone of friends such as Lanni and Fahrenkopf who knew better and just said no, industry leaders say today.

Self-blacklisting is tough. A recent New York Times investigation turned up a Louisiana resident who had joined the state's voluntary exclusion list for problem gamblers. That meant the erstwhile player should have been banned from all casino games and promotions. Instead, the player got $1,600 in checks cashed to cover losses. It also included $8,350 in 22 credit-card advances made by Casino Rouge, a Baton Rouge riverboat casino, for the self-excluded player. A $1,250 jackpot led to the discovery that the player's name was on the list, a check that is supposed to be done at numerous levels. Casino Rouge has settled the case for $59,500.

Odd couples. Subtle surveys of Las Vegas visitors show their second choice for vacation destinations are Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz., over San Diego, which you might expect. Marketing gurus say the preference reflects the growing popularity of male-bonding vacations. It seems the Las Vegas target group of younger, more affluent executives prefer longer getaways that cost more per day. Women fitting the same mold make less and prefer shorter vacations and settle for more civilized activities. The reverse preferences don't apply. Phoenix and Tucson visitors still will pick San Diego over Las Vegas -- as long as they don't live there.

Casino executives say it's easier than ever to attract senior managers from other cities because of all the media attention new megaresorts in Las Vegas are generating. At the same time, however, it's harder than ever to hold onto recent hires. In competition with other destinations, Las Vegas wins hands down. But once midlevel managers get here, they're fair game for more poaching from competitors than ever before.

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