Casino regulators oppose old Reno casino venture |

Casino regulators oppose old Reno casino venture

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) – Nevada regulators voted Wednesday against outdated Reno hotel-casino purchase plans by a company under control of a Southern California businessman linked to reputed mobsters.

The state Gaming Control Board recommended denial of the now-defunct application that had been filed by Sapphire Gaming LLC. The board’s parent state Gaming Commission will have final say Aug. 23.

Sapphire and an affiliate, the Hertz Investment Group, sought to acquire three Reno casinos in 1999, starting with a $5 million deal for the Comstock. Also proposed was a $20 million deal for the Flamingo Hilton and a bid for a half-interest in the Sands Regency.

Control Board member Scott Scherer moved to deny Sapphire, rather than let the company simply withdraw its old application, saying he’s concerned because Sapphire is controlled by Judah Hertz.

The board and commission had voted against Hertz last December, saying he failed to tell investigators about associations with numerous people with criminal backgrounds, or about questionable business matters and 86 lawsuits involving him or his family’s companies.

GCB investigators said Hertz had dealings with reputed organized crime figures including Israeli immigrant and accused international drug smuggler Jacob Orgad.

The board said Orgad allegedly distributed cocaine for the Gambino and Escobar crime families, supplied cocaine and recruited women for notorious Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss, and has been linked to distribution of MDMA, the illegal ”ecstasy” drug.

While board members wouldn’t vote to let Sapphire Gaming LLC withdraw its application, the panel did endorse withdrawals by three other Hertz family members who didn’t cause investigators any concern.

In other action, the Control Board recommended licensing for the new, $16 million Tamarack Junction casino in southwest Reno that’s scheduled for a Sept. 7 grand opening.

The club was recommended for up to 240 slots and a sports book. General manager Casey Sullivan said a possible expansion in three to five years could increase the slots to 600 and also include table games.

The casino was built on a 14-acre site where the old Tamarack Bar, a favorite with some motorcyclists, was located. ”It’s quite an improvement over the old Tamarack,” Tamarack Junction attorney Bud Hicks said.

Sullivan said the new club has a Virginia & Truckee Railroad theme, will employ more than 100 employees, and will depend mainly on locals living and working in the rapidly developing area just south of Reno.

Board members also:

-Endorsed Rhett Keith Long as president of the Reno Hilton. Long, who has a lengthy career in Nevada gambling, also has the title of senior vice president of FHR Corp., the Reno Hilton’s corporate parent.

-Recommended a corporate restructuring of gambling properties owned by the Herbst family of Las Vegas. The holdings include slot route businesses acquired from Jackpot Enterprises; and Terrible’s hotel-casino in Las Vegas. The family also has the Terrible Herbst chain of gasoline stations and convenience stores.

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