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Caesars fined $100,000 for under-21 gambling

27 Jul 2012

By Howard Stutz
Caesars Entertainment Inc. is paying the state a $100,000 fine to settle underage gambling charges, but may face a stiffer penalty if it happens again.

"This is not an isolated incident, but a pattern of abuse," Nevada Gaming Commissioner Randolph Townsend said Thursday as the regulatory panel voted to accept the settlement with Caesars over multiple charges of gambling and alcohol consumption by underage customers at several of the company's Strip resorts between 2010 and May of this year.

Townsend, whose comments were echoed by fellow commissioners John Moran Jr. and Tony Alamo Jr., said Caesars was getting off easy.

"If it happens again, I want a seven-figure settlement or else we will litigate it," Townsend said. "As we enter the Internet gaming world, this becomes a significant issue."

Alamo said $100,000 wasn't enough to send a message to the industry. He was told by deputy attorney general John Michela, who negotiated the settlement, that the figure was based on history and precedent.

"I think we could have negotiated a much bigger number," Alamo said.

Two Caesars Entertainment Strip casino presidents, Gary Selesner and Rick Mazer, sat in the audience at the gaming commission hearing and watched the proceedings. Neither would comment.

Caesars Entertainment spokesman Gary Thompson, repeating remarks from last week, said the company "has been recognized as a leader in responsible gaming" and is "committed to its programs, including Project 21, which addresses underage gambling.'

Under terms of the July 9 settlement with the Gaming Control Board, Caesars agreed to pay the $100,000 fine and admitted to all violations in the complaint. The company has 60 days to report how it has addressed the issues.

According to the complaint, employees of Caesars Palace, Harrah's Las Vegas, Rio and Flamingo allowed customers between the ages of 17 and 20 to play table games at the properties even though the employees were presented identification showing gamblers were under the age of 21.

Gaming control agents reportedly notified casino officials of the violations as they occurred, including an incident in May when a dealer at Caesars Palace misread the passport of a 19-year-old and allowed him to play blackjack.

The commission voted 4-0 to accept the settlement. Commissioner Joe Brown recused because an attorney at his law firm represents Caesars at the Legislature.

Gaming Commission Chairman Pete Bernhard said the fine amount hasn't "diminished the seriousness" of the charges.

"We need to be vigilant," Bernhard said. "I'm comfortable with the penalty. I don't set hard and fast rules."

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