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October 18, 2018

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Gaming board leery of arrest account

Nevada hotel-casino owner Ann Sipl Meyers was denied a gaming license extension this week largely because of an incident last July in which she was arrested allegedly trying to stow away on an airliner bound to Las Vegas from Atlanta.

Meyers' request to extend her gaming license beyond its expiration March 25 was effectively denied by the Gaming Control Board, whose members questioned her honesty about the July 26 Delta Air Lines incident.

According to Meyers, she accidentally boarded the wrong flight in Atlanta while sick with conditions that required her to frequently visit the bathroom. She held tickets on a series of flights that would have carried her to Las Vegas via New Orleans and Salt Lake City.

Meyers said she mistakenly boarded a direct flight to Las Vegas, but was forced to enter the bathroom soon after taking her seat. On returning from the bathroom to find her seat occupied, she took another. The plane eventually filled up, but Meyers spent much of the boarding process in the bathroom.

She was discovered in the bathroom before takeoff and arrested. However, Meyers said she was never charged because she held tickets to Las Vegas.

Board members said airline accounts had Meyers hiding out in the bathroom before takeoff, purposefully failing to lock the door so that the "occupied" light would not come on.

According to her ticketed itinerary, members said, Meyers would have arrived in New Orleans too late to catch a connecting flight to Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. If she had taken the New Orleans flight, she would have had to change her itinerary to even arrive in Las Vegas that day, members said.

"A suspicious person might look at your itinerary ... and conclude ... you boarded that plane trying to get back to Las Vegas quicker," said Board Chairman Steve DuCharme.

"I am guilty of using poor judgement," said Meyers.

The airline arrest in and of itself might not have been enough to convince the Board to deny Meyers a license. But she was operating the Nevada hotel-casino on a one year limited license -- a form of Board probation imposed for her past failure to tell the truth about keeping enough money in the casino bankroll and about whether the resort was properly insured, said DuCharme.

"We've been visiting with you for eight years and we've seen you do a lot of strange things," said DuCharme. "You have not been candid with us."

The other board members expressed concern that Meyers would not simply admit her attempts to stow away on the airline.

"She made a deliberate effort to try to get back to Las Vegas as quickly as she could," said member Dennis Neilander. "If that's the case, I wish she would just say that."

"That lack of candor here in this room really concerns me," said member Bobby Siller.

"This matter is ... regrettable, and was unrelated to gaming operations," said Preston Howard, Meyers' attorney. "Her intent remains the same, to sell the property."

The board referred Meyers application back to their investigative staff to give her time to find an alternative means of operating gambling machines at the Nevada hotel-casino, such as contracting with a slot route operator.

The Nevada hotel-casino, at 235 S. Main St., features 160 rooms and 16 video poker machines.

In other action this week, the Board:

Approved Harrah's Entertainment Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Phil Satre as director of the Rio hotel-casino, and chairman and director of Showboat Inc. Edwin O. Robinson was also approved as senior vice president and secretary of the Rio and Showboat, and as a Rio director. Colin V. Reed was approved as a director and financial officer at Harrah's, Rio and Showboat. Harrah's acquired Showboat and the Rio last year.

Satre said Harrah's re-entry to the high-end baccarat business with its acquisition of the Rio is going "so far, so good."

He also said Harrah's will build a three to four-story building for its new Las Vegas headquarters on a few acres of the 80-acre Rio campus. The existing Rio resort occupies about 40 acres. The rest of the acreage will be used for future "tourist uses," he said.

Approved the transfer of a 4 percent interest in the Aztec Inn hotel-casino, 2200 Las Vegas Blvd. South, from owners Gerald Brinkman, Paul Kellogg III, Gary Vause and Donald Dombrowski to general manager William Maxwell.

Board members expressed concern about a large number of lawsuits between Aztec Inn owners, including a December lawsuit in which Brinkman accuses Kellogg, Vause and Drombowski of self-dealing loan transactions. According to the suit, Kellogg, Vause and Drombowski loaned the Aztec Inn money and then had the casino repay those loans at high interest rates. At the same time, Brinkman was losing money, states the suit.

An attorney for Kellogg, Vause and Drombowski said Brinkman has made similar loans.

At a Board meeting this week, Maxwell said the owners are negotiating a settlement to the suit.

Referred back to investigative staff an application by Christine H. Ambrozy for a restricted gaming license for Happy Daze Inc., doing business as Club Happy Daze, 2207 Las Vegas Blvd. South. Members were concerned with disciplinary actions Michigan liquor and gaming authorities took against Michigan bars Ambrozy once owned. Ambrozy-owned bars were shut down twice for illegal gambling activities, including operating prohibited machines and paying out on bets, members said.

Board members said Ambrozy's Michigan activities demonstrate a lack of attention to regulatory detail, and refused to support her license application. The application was referred back to staff to give Ambrozy a chance to restructure Happy Daze's ownership.

Referred back to staff an application for a transfer of a 33.6 percent interest in D.M.K. Inc., doing business as Sunrise Lounge & Restaurant, 6055 E. Lake Mead Blvd., from Albert D. Massi and Cory M. Knauss to Martin Doetzer. Also referred to staff was a 13.3 percent transfer from Massi to James E. Dunn, and Dunn's application for licensure as a shareholder and officer.

Board members wanted to delay the applications pending the resolution of a disciplinary complaint filed against D.M.K. by the Board Wednesday. The complaint alleges D.M.K.'s principles transferred ownership interests among themselves without prior Board approval. The Board is seeking a fine that could be as large as $250,000.

Referred back to staff an application by Spinsig Operating Corp., doing business as Best Western Main Street Inn, 1000 N. Main St., for a restricted gaming license. Board members were concerned that half the funds for Spinsig's purchase of the Best Western come from Joseph Signore Sr., father of applicant Joseph Signore Jr. Signore Sr. was arrested in Chicago in 1994 on charges of paying out a bet on a gambling machine.

Agents want to review Signore Sr.'s arrest record and get more details on his gift of $500,000 to Signore Jr. to buy a half interest in the Best Western.

The Best Western's other owners are Carmine and Michele Spinelli.

Approved a restricted gaming license for Cardivan Co., doing business at Villa Pizza, 2211 S. Maryland Parkway, on the condition that Villa Pizza owner Frank Amalfitano file an application for a finding of suitability as a landlord. Agents were concerned with Amalfitano's association with John Conti, a childhood friend who is in the Nevada "Black Book" of persons excluded from casinos.