Monday, March 1, 1999 | 12:11 p.m.
MGM Grand Inc. of Las Vegas could face delays or difficulties in gaining a Michigan gambling license because of problems with the backgrounds of some of its Detroit partners and suppliers, the Detroit News reported Sunday.
The newspaper said Anthony Soave, majority owner of the building that will house MGM Grand's $200 million temporary Detroit casino, once was arrested on an illegal gambling charge.
Soave, who has made a fortune in the garbage hauling business, was arrested along with 20 other men in 1971 on illegal gambling charges but the case was dismissed because prosecutors did not get proper signatures on a federal wiretap order. The arrest was expunged from his record in 1990.
Perhaps more troubling are his documented contacts with alleged organized crime figures in Detroit and New Jersey.
Those contacts were spelled out in a New Jersey State Police report on Soave and his company, compiled in 1991 when he applied for a trash-hauling license there. New Jersey police cited several social and business deals with mob figures.
Soave denied any wrongdoing, saying payments by his company to companies linked to the mob were not his responsibility.
"I don't choose the contractors on the job. That is not my role. I am the owner," Soave told the News.
He said his contacts with a New Jersey mob associate, Joseph Riggi, were social and he did not know Riggi was under investigation. Riggi, a former union business manager, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for labor racketeering and extortion.
"I know I didn't do anything wrong ... I've been investigated over and over and there's been nothing," Soave said.
MGM Grand President Alex Yemenidjian said the lease with its temporary casino landlord is subject to the approval of the Michigan Gaming Control Board. If the Board rejects Soave, he could sell his share of the building to his partners or MGM could buy it, the News reported.
The Detroit News also spelled out problems with a few of MGM Grand's 10 investors in Detroit: Church leader Martha Jean Steinberg did not file required financial statements for her nonprofit group last year, a company controlled by William Pickard was forced to restructure to avoid entering bankruptcy and real estate developer Anthony Gramer was once arrested on a charge of beating his wife -- but she refused to press charges and the case was closed.
Yemenidjian told the News that the Gaming Control Board will ultimately decide whether to license the investors.
"I love every one of my 10 partners," he told the newspaper. "I am very proud of being associated with them and I am very concerned about not having the group intact. But that is not a decision that is up to us."