Friday, March 22, 1996 | 11:59 a.m.
Stratosphere Corp. began the mass processing of 3,000 new employees today after winning final approval from state gaming regulators for its April 30 opening.
But the man behind the towering edifice that gave the company its name might not be there much longer.
Stratosphere Chairman Bob Stupak told the Nevada Gaming Commission Thursday he might resign his post as early as a month after the resort opens to pursue "other projects."
Though he declined to elaborate, Stupak said any gaming ventures he launches in the future would be "within a few miles at most" of the 1,149-foot tall tower that many thought would never be built.
And Stupak gave a spirited defense of the controversial marketing programs that got him in hot water in the past. Stupak said he built his old Vegas World resort "from a 90-room hotel to a 1,000-room hotel and expanded the casino from 15,000 square feet to 80,000 square feet without any bank financing."
He did that by selling prepaid vacation packages for Vegas World, which was razed to make way for the Stratosphere project. He has placed $50 million of Stratosphere stock in an escrow account to cover reimbursements of about $24 million in vacation packages still outstanding.
Stratosphere's attorney, Frank Schreck, noted that package holders could use them for visits to the new resort, giving the buyers "a much better deal than they ever bargained for."
Stratosphere President David Wirshing said the company has already hired 600 of the 3,000 workers it will employ and would begin "mass processing" the other 2,400 today.
He also said Stratosphere would begin airing "very dramatic" television commercials next week that are aimed at luring California and Arizona residents to the hotel-casino complex featuring the tallest free-standing observation tower in the United States.
Gaming Commission Chairman Bill Curran said he would not vote on any Stratosphere applications because his law firm has a business relationship "with someone close to one of the applicants." But the other four commission members voted to approve the Stratosphere applications.
In other actions, the full commission:
* Approved American Wagering Inc.'s acquisition of B-P Gaming Corp., which owns a hotel at 3111 W. Tropicana Ave. American Wagering, which operates 36 race and sports books throughout the state under a wholly owned subsidiary, Leroy's Horse and Sports Place, plans renovations with a sports-oriented decor and to expand casino space for live games and slots. The commission also approved the sale of $15 million in stock to finance the project. The company will file a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding the offering.
* Approved G.C. Gaming's acquisition from Stations Casinos Inc. of a 50 percent interest in Barley's Casino & Brewing Co. in Henderson. G.C. Gaming is owned by Brian and Danny Greenspun, Jane Greenspun Gale and Susan Greenspun Fine. The family also owns the Las Vegas SUN, Prime Cable and other media businesses.
* Approved fines of $7,500 each on Harrah's hotel-casino in Reno and Bally's in Las Vegas for underage gambling incidents. The casinos, which didn't contest the fines, reported the violations to gaming regulators after catching the teenage gamblers themselves.
* Approved the minimum $10,000 fine for currency violations on Avi hotel-casino, which lies on tribal land along the Colorado River. The fine -- the first ever against an Indian gaming operation in Nevada -- stemmed from an incident in which an undercover gaming agent deposited $3,500 at the casino. He returned the next day and received bills of different denominations -- a violation of state reporting requirements.