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December 1998 Article

Exclusively Found in the Insider Viewpoint of Las Vegas

Desert Rats Part 2
By: Frank Rosenthal

Prior to my appearance before Nevada State Gaming Boards, the word had leaked throughout the entire industry that the "Desert Rats", headed by Gaming Commission Chairman Peter "The Czar" Echeverria, were ready and eager to cast their ballots that would end my career forever in Hotel & Casino Gaming!

I was never under an illusion, nor was I hoping for a miracle. I'm a pure realist, however, I was not about to surrender to those "rats". The stakes couldn't have been higher, a life long career about to be permanently terminated and left for dead, unlike the fairy tale in the movie "Casino" where I was handed the keys to the magnificent Tangier's Casino, escorts and a mile long red carpet.

For months I had attempted to break the "fix" that awaited me. The commissioners never met a cocktail they didn't like, and several of them were well known for dealing seconds and using phony dice. Conversely, when the unanimous vote was read I was partially stunned. I left the Reno/Carson City area by Lear Jet, and arrived back into Las Vegas in about 1 hour.

A certified telegram was issued to the corporation that demanded a surrender and withdrawal from all of my responsibilities, compensation and authority within 72 hours! My thoughts wandered, my confidence at an all time low. I cleaned out my office, and was invited to address the senior executives and their staffs in one of the many ballrooms within the Stardust. There were sobs, tears, some of which could have rivaled a Hollywood movie. I thanked those who had been loyal and productive. The applause was surprising, somewhat consoling, at least for the moment. I went home to my family and attempted to adjust for the semi-retirement that went with the sentencing from the Desert Rats!

I had 2 choices...accept the life sentence of banishment from the industry or attempt the impossible. A challenge to the powerful state gamers through the district courts was not considered to be either practical or warranted. Filing a law suit was simple, even I had that right. Strong consideration had to be given to the court system, and their political ties. Many of the judges were pro gaming, and held to the absolute rule that court interference had no precedent, and further more, it was contrary to conventional wisdom. My attorney and I pondered for a period of time, never hesitating or doubting the merits of a lawsuit.

Would I be fortunate or lucky enough to land into a courtroom with a judge who would strictly apply and consider the law rather than cave into the establishment? Our chances seemed slim to nonexistent. The community did not perceive me to be a likely poster boy with top scout honors who was denied his due process, and who should therefore be afforded a square hearing based upon strict constitutional law and common civil rights. The commissioners had successfully portrayed me to be evil and threatening to the best interests of the community and industry.

These suckers knew how to paint, and their brush was wicked, widespread and calculating. "Lets take a shot, Oscar." Oscar Goodman was then my attorney, and he too was not held in high esteem by the band of Desert Rats.

The legal briefs were prepared and filed. The judge would be selected by random choice, rather than by the presiding chief judge.

We knew that our chances were slim at best, however a slim chance seemed to be a better alternative then simply lying down to those *&$#!*%@#. They were a bunch of tough, organized bandits who orchestrated and dealt me a crippling blow, both financially and career wise. There were many nights, days too, that I often thought about Pete and his stooges. I would foolishly check the daily obituaries hoping to recognize one or more of their names.

The appeal took about 14 months and we became aware that the deciding judge was independent, scholarly and not likely to become intimidated by the powerful state gamers. At least we had a chance, depending upon his interpretation of the law and the state's arbitrary rulings that did not consider constitutional and civil rights.

My attorney shocked me when he called to notify me that the presiding judge had reversed the commissioners! I asked Oscar if he was kidding. "No Frank, we won, your going back to work. The State had violated my constitutional rights, was arbitrary, capricious and void of reasonable due process." Talk about your long shots. The courts order superseded the states ruling, thereby providing me an opportunity to return to work in my former position as the Chief Executive Officer of the Argent Corporation and it's holdings within the state.

The headlines read, "Rosenthal Wins, Gamers Lose" The state gamers were in a panic, and they immediately petitioned to the Nevada Supreme Court requesting a "stay of the order". They called and appealed to the Chairman of the Argent board, almost demanding that he not reinstate me in spite of the court's ruling.

The Chairman held firm and courageously so. I went back to work 24 hours later title in hand. The gentlemen that had replaced me was not an ally. On several occasions he let it be known that my appeal to the courts didn't have a prayer and would not be well received by the chairman even if the unthinkable were to happen. When I appeared back on the scene he shook my hand while welcoming me back. He then proceeded to ask me if I would like my old office back and how soon!. "Yes Carl, how's 24 hours."

The Desert Rats weren't through even though they lost the judicial fight. They huddled, planned and prepared for one more battle. More on that in January 1999. Merry Xmas, Happy New Year, Health & Prosperity.

Stay Tuned & Good Luck!

Frank Rosenthal


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