Guy W. Farmer: Gaming control agencies eye the Siena |

Guy W. Farmer: Gaming control agencies eye the Siena

Guy W. Farmer

As a former gaming control staffer, I was pleased when the Nevada Gaming Commission put Reno’s Siena Hotel-Casino on notice that it must maintain an adequate bankroll to cover its gambling losses. That’s a primary responsibility of our gaming control agencies and it’s nice to know that someone is looking out for the Siena’s customers.

Some news reports called the Gaming Commission’s action “a stay of execution,” which accurately describes the plight of the embattled Siena as it struggles to remain open in the midst of a devastating economic recession. Several other Reno-Tahoe-area casinos are also on the ropes and the recession isn’t the only reason why.

When I worked for the Gaming Commission and its investigative arm, the State Gaming Control Board, in the mid-1960s we took several strong enforcement actions, revoking the gambling licenses of mobbed-up singer Frank Sinatra and notorious casino owner Ruby Kolod, and closing a Las Vegas Strip casino, the Silver Slipper, for cheating. We also successfully defended a “Black Book” challenge by Chicago hoodlum Marshall Caifano (aka Johnny Marshall) in a federal court case that compared Caifano/Marshall’s ominous presence in our casinos to the threat posed by cows afflicted with hoof-and-mouth disease on Nevada rangelands.

In short, we aggressively carried out then-Gov. Grant Sawyer’s “hang tough” gaming control policy and started expelling known hoodlums from our state’s most important business. Our actions paved the way for the rapid expansion of legal gambling in Nevada over the next 20 to 30 years. So it’s reassuring to know that the state’s gaming control agencies are still regulating marginal casinos so as to protect the gambling public.

The Gaming Commission ordered the Siena to maintain a minimum bankroll of $230,000 (which seems low) and to pay $154,000 in delinquent state taxes by next Thursday, or face closure. I urge the commission to hold the Siena to those reasonable conditions.

The gaming control agencies should also take another look at their own regulations, which require casino licensees to operate “in the best interests of the state of Nevada.” I continue to object to the commission’s erroneous (in my opinion) policy allowing gaming licensees to operate virtually unregulated Indian casinos in nearby California. The most egregious example is that Las Vegas-based Station Casinos is permitted to operate the thriving Thunder Valley tribal casino on I-80 east of Sacramento, which intercepts customers who would otherwise be headed to Northern Nevada casinos.

This is an issue the Gaming Commission and Control Board should address sooner rather than later in order to defend Nevada casinos against unfair competition.

• Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, worked for Nevada’s gaming control agencies in the 1960s.