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Liz Benston


Looking in on: Gaming

29 Jan 2007

By Liz Benston, Las Vegas Sun

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Cooper Levenson has dominated the practice of gaming law on the East Coast, crafting legislation that enabled casinos to open in Atlantic City in the 1970s and representing most of the casino companies doing business in New Jersey.

Seeing opportunity to expand in Nevada, the 70-lawyer firm - which also represents blue-chip companies in other industries - waited years for the right time to tap a marquee lawyer and launch its Las Vegas practice.

Enter Kimberly Maxson-Rushton, former deputy attorney general representing the Nevada Gaming Commission and Gaming Control Board. The daughter of former UNLV President Bob Maxson, she is friends with former Gov. Kenny Guinn, chairwoman of Opportunity Village and an attorney whose close knowledge of gaming law might only be trumped by her business contacts.

Maxson-Rushton, who leaves as chairwoman of the Transportation Services Authority, will lead the Las Vegas office of Cooper Levenson and help the firm hire as many as 10 attorneys over the next couple of years.

She will practice gaming law for clients already in Las Vegas or expanding here. Nongaming clients, such as developers represented by Cooper Levenson back East, also want to work with the firm in Las Vegas, Chief Executive Lloyd Levenson said. Unlike other big law firms moving into town and poaching attorneys from competitors, Cooper Levenson is already well established in the gaming industry.

"You can't pick up a book and learn gaming law," Levenson said. "It's a combination of contacts, experience and judgment that you get over many, many years."

Maxson-Rushton will become the first woman to head up a gaming practice in Las Vegas and the second female attorney handling gaming regulation issues at Cooper Levenson.

• • •

An investment group has vocalized what some observers have been saying behind the scenes: that management's $82 per share offer to take Station Casinos private is too low.

The complaint isn't coming from Wall Street, but rather from an advisory firm formed by the largest union pension funds in the country - holders of more than 170,000 Station shares - to fight acquisitions they believe dilute shareholder value.

In a letter sent Thursday to Station's board, CtW Investment Group says Station is worth more than $97 per share.

Shareholder activism is yet another creative way that unions are flexing their political muscle.

With the recent acquisitions, especially those involving private equity firms such as the one backing the Station bid, unions are concerned about losing influence as companies change hands and cut costs by slashing workers.

This complaint is about shareholders' money, not union politics, said Rich Clayton, CtW's director of growth strategies.

"Companies are proposing buyouts at times when the company's share price is artificially depressed," Clayton said. "There's an inherent conflict of interest when the people with the best knowledge of the company are proposing a buyout. There's a lot of long-term value for shareholders" that's not reflected in Station's stock today, he said.

• • •

Blowing up buildings and trucking away the rubble to a landfill is old school. To comply with environmentally friendly Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification standards that can qualify for significant property tax cuts, gaming giants MGM Mirage and Boyd Gaming Corp. are carefully recycling materials from old casinos in the construction of their luxury high-rise projects.

Being green isn't cheap. Taking down the Boardwalk with the aim of recycling 80 percent of the building cost MGM Mirage more than $4.5 million instead of the $1 million it might have cost to blow it up and cart it away, officials say.

The recycling effort includes reusing the crushed glass at CityCenter, the $7 billion project taking shape at the former Boardwalk site. Other green practices include spreading crushed concrete and mortar, rather than water, to keep dust at bay, shipping bathroom fixtures abroad, where they will end up in homes and commercial buildings, and using old carpet as packing material to truck away recycled materials.

Copyright © Las Vegas Sun. Inc. Republished with permission.

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