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Caesars Entertainment Corp. dropped the Gansevoort Hotel name from a project in Las Vegas, after regulators’ concerns about the hotel operator forced Caesars to pull out of a separate partnership in Massachusetts.
Massachusetts gaming investigators recommended that Caesars not be licensed in the state, in part due to questions about an investor in Gansevoort, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Gary Loveman said in a telephone interview today.
While the $185 million project that was to carry the Gansevoort brand is in Nevada, casino regulators typically review business relationships widely before granting licenses to operators. Caesars said yesterday that it dropped out of a proposed casino resort in East Boston after the Massachusetts probe. Caesars was a partner with the Suffolk Downs horse track in a $1 billion project in the Boston suburb.
The investigators’ findings were “extraordinary,” Loveman said. He predicted other large casino companies will have difficulty meeting the state’s licensing standards.
“It’s going to be very hard for a multi-jurisdictional operator to pass this test,” Loveman said, citing the many business relationships large companies have, beyond gambling to include hotels and nightclubs. “It’s going to be very hard for anyone to pass.”
Caesars said in March it planned to turn its Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall and Saloon on the Las Vegas Strip into a boutique hotel using the Gansevoort name. Gansevoort Hotel Group, whose flagship hotel is in the Meatpacking District of New York, is led by father and son team William and Michael Achenbaum.
Arik Kislin, an investor in Gansevoort, was identified in German court filings as allegedly having ties to organized crime in Russia, according to a 2012 report in the New York Post. Kislin’s lawyer, Lisa Cohen, told the Post then that he had “no recollection” about the company with the alleged mob ties.
Attempts to reach Kislin were unsuccessful. Nancy Friedman, a spokeswoman for Gansevoort, had no immediate comment.
Caesars did its own background checks before entering into the licensing agreement with Gansevoort, Loveman said.
“We certainly did not expect to have trouble,” he said. Caesars also told Massachusetts regulators they would end the relationship, a “remedy” casino regulators often allow but not in this case, he said.
The report from Massachusetts Gaming Commission investigators also cited concerns about Caesars’ finances, Loveman said. The company, which was purchased in a 2008 leveraged buyout by Apollo Global Management LLC and TPG Capital, has $23 billion in debt.
The rejection of Caesars is “a bit surprising given their existing licenses,” Matthew Landry, a consultant with Strategic Market Advisors in Somersworth, New Hampshire, said in an e- mail. “Massachusetts does seem to be determined to distinguish itself in this process.”
Massachusetts legalized casino gambling two years ago with plans to have three resort-style properties in three separate parts of the state.
Suffolk Downs, whose principal owners are Richard Fields, chairman of Coastal Development LLC, and Joe O’Donnell, founder of Boston Culinary Group Inc., is competing with two other operators for the sole casino resort license in the Boston area. The other applicants are Wynn Resorts Ltd. and Crossroads Massachusetts LLC, which is affiliated with Connecticut’s Foxwoods casino.
Suffolk Downs could partner with another casino operator, according to Clyde Barrow, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
The most likely candidates are Wynn, which is looking to a build a casino in Everett, or Hard Rock International, which was denied a casino bid by voters in West Springfield last month, Barrow said.
Fields has a relationship with Hard Rock that dates back to casinos he built with the company in Tampa and Hollywood, Florida, Barrow said.
The commission will hold a public hearing Oct. 29 to review facts before Suffolk Downs’ suitability is determined, Elaine Driscoll, a spokeswoman for the commission, said in an e-mail today. A redacted version of the report will be released on Oct. 23, she said.
Loveman said he didn’t expect the Massachusetts recommendation to impact the company’s licensing in other jurisdictions. Caesars, which owns more than 50 properties, was licensed recently in Maryland and Ohio.
“We hold more licenses than any company in the history of gambling,” Loveman said.
Editors: Anthony Palazzo and Mike Millard.
To contact the reporter on this story: Christopher Palmeri in Los Angeles at firstname.lastname@example.org. To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at email@example.com.