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Casino to pay $300,000 fine
Ben Affleck Banned From Playing Blackjack at Hard Rock Hotel In Vegas After Getting Caught Counting Cards
Wonderwall, Friday, May 2, 2014, 4:21pm (PDT)
What happens in Vegas sure didn't stay in Vegas for Ben Affleck. The actor was reportedly caught counting cards during a game of blackjack in Las Vegas on April 29.
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TMZ was first to report the 41-year-old actor was in Sin City with his wife Jennifer Garner when he was approached by security after they spotted the Argo actor reportedly counting cards.
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Despite reports the actor is now banned the hotel entirely, a source tells Us Weekly the actor was banned only from playing blackjack, but allowed to play other games.
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"Security said, 'You are too good at the game,'" the source says, adding: "The hotel was really nice about it and told him he could play other games. They ended up getting him and Jennifer a car back to their hotel too."
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The couple, who are parents to Violet, Seraphina, and Samuel, were in Vegas for "a romantic quick getaway" before Affleck is set to start shooting the 2015 sequel to Man of Steel, where he'll play Batman.
A rep for Affleck had no comment.
By Richard N. Velotta
Thursday, April 22, 2004 | 10:53 a.m.
The Hard Rock hotel-casino in Las Vegas agreed Wednesday to pay a $300,000 fine -- the maximum permitted by law -- to settle a state Gaming Control Board complaint over its edgy advertising campaigns.
The settlement addresses inferences of the Hard Rock condoning cheating at gambling and illegal drug use and not the sexual content of the advertisements that raised the ire of community activists who packed a Nevada Gaming Commission hearing in March.
The settlement also directed the Hard Rock to pay closer attention to an in-house compliance committee to review "questionable elements" in its promotional materials. By agreeing to the settlement, the Hard Rock waives its right to a public hearing on the complaint.
The five-page settlement document, signed by Kevin Kelley, chief executive officer of the Hard Rock, and representatives of the Gaming Control Board, said the Hard Rock's efforts to present a satirical message went too far.
"The Hard Rock had a subjective belief that the advertisement described ... was satirical in nature and never acted intentionally to promote or encourage cheating at gambling through that advertisement," the settlement said. "However, the Hard Rock now understands and agrees that as a gaming licensee, there are some subjects such as condoning cheating at gambling that are not suitable for its commercial expression."
The settlement document had a similar statement related to the promotion or encouragement of the abuse of drugs or any other illegal activity.
Kelley was not available for comment today.
The two ads addressed in the settlement were noted in the initial Gaming Control Board complaint, filed in January. One ad shows a man and a woman on a gaming table, surrounded by playing cards and poker chips, with the caption, "There's always a temptation to cheat."
The other ad reads, "At the Hard Rock Hotel, we believe in your Monday night rights: large quantities of prescription stimulants (and) having wives in two states ... Tell your wives you are going; if they are hot, bring them along."
The settlement's directive on the Hard Rock Compliance Committee is broad in scope, warning the company to be wary of producing ads that could be offensive, but it doesn't explicitly say that the company had to quit producing suggestive ads. It warned that the company -- not the compliance committee -- is ultimately responsible for public ad content.
" ... The role of the Hard Rock Compliance Committee is one of an advisory board that meets quarterly to develop compliance recommendations, while the Hard Rock management has the full responsibility for all of the Hard Rock in-house promotions and public advertising," the settlement says.
"The Hard Rock management had a subjective belief that the role of its compliance committee review of its compliance committee review of 'questionable elements' was only applicable to in-house promotions designed to prevent the reoccurence of inappropriate incidents on the property of the Hard Rock and not to its public advertising," the settlement says.
"The Hard Rock management agrees to consider the best practices recommendations of its compliance committee in conduct of both its in-house promotions and its public advertising, while reserving the ultimate conduct of both its in-house promotions and its public advertising, while reserving the ultimate decision-making and responsibility to comply with federal, state and local law to itself."
The original Gaming Control Board complaint cited two ads, in billboards and publications.
One, which appeared just prior to the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, depicted a woman shown from the knees down with her underwear falling to her angles, with the text saying, "Get ready to buck all night."
The other, displayed last summer, showed a naked woman holding a pair of dice over her nipples, with the caption reading, "We sell used dice."
Senior Deputy Attorney General Antonia Cowan, who filed the original complaint on behalf of the Gaming Control Board, said the sexual content of the ads was not the primary issue, but the public raised the issue on those billboards and others around the city at the same time the complaint was filed.
Cowan said the original complaint was concerned with the Hard Rock's internal policing policies and the settlement addressed that issue.
Gaming Control Board member Bobby Siller did not sign off on the settlement, but said he was happy that the Hard Rock acknowledged wrong-doing and was assessed the maximum fine allowable.
Siller said his concern with the settlement is that he does not believe the Hard Rock did not know that it needed to take responsibility for its public advertising and not just in-house promotions.
"My concern is that the Hard Rock doesn't have an appreciation of the seriousness of the impact of this type of advertising on the community and there is more concern about maintaining a competitive edge," Siller said.
The sexual content of the Hard Rock ads and of those from other hotel-casinos brought dozens of protesters, many with their children in tow, to a Nevada Gaming Commission meeting in March. The commission, a five-member panel, writes the state's gaming regulations and has the ultimate authority over whether a company is disciplined.
The complaint against the Hard Rock served as a catalyst for the more than 200 people who jammed the hearing to ask that suggestive advertising be curtailed.
There are no other advertising complaints pending before the Gaming Control Board, officials said.
Hard Rock bets on a three-way deal
By Liz Benston
Friday, Feb. 9, 2007 | 7:08 a.m.
Companies don't typically buy a Nevada casino until first obtaining a state gaming license necessary to own and operate the property.
An increasingly complex and competitive landscape is changing that by driving investors to consummate deals more quickly.
The most recent example is the three-way deal that paved the way for Morgans Hotel Group - a newcomer to Nevada and casinos - to purchase the Hard Rock Hotel without having first obtained a gaming license.
Joining Morgans in the purchase is DLJ Merchant Banking Partners, the private equity arm of investment banking giant Credit Suisse that is funding two-thirds of the equity used to purchase the Hard Rock for $770 million from Peter Morton. Individuals with Morgans and DLJ will be licensed as members of an investment partnership that has applied for ownership of the rock 'n' roll-themed property.
Regulators allowed the Hard Rock to change hands this month by first approving a third party to operate the casino while Morgans and DLJ officials complete the yearlong process of obtaining a gaming license.
Golden Gaming, which owns the PT's Pub chain, a few small casinos and thousands of slot machines in Nevada convenience stores, gas stations and bars, accepted that challenge.
The arrangement is somewhat unusual, even in a state that has previously approved third-party casino managers.
Rather than hiring and paying its own casino staff, Golden will be renting Hard Rock's 500 or so employees from Morgans to run the casino. Golden also won't be putting its own money at risk by funding the casino's bankroll or becoming an equity partner in the Hard Rock.
Golden's chief duty will be making sure the casino is run in compliance with state law. For its trouble, the company will receive a management fee of $3.3 million a year. In turn, Golden will pay Morgans a base rent of $20.7 million a year. The deal-clincher is a special incentive for Golden: The company will receive 25 percent of any profit from casino operations.
The remaining 75 percent will collect in an escrow account that will be given to Morgans and DLJ after the companies are licensed. Because Nevada regulations prevent casino managers from sharing revenue with unlicensed companies, Morgans and DLJ won't get their hands on that money until they are licensed.
"Our first thought was that this was a somewhat unusual and complicated situation," said Blake Sartini, Golden Gaming's chief executive.
That's one of the reasons Sartini, one of the founders of the Station Casinos chain, turned down a management deal at the Hard Rock before Morgans was identified as the buyer.
"We didn't want to go in as a blind date," he said.
Morgans' involvement changed his mind.
"I entered into this arrangement because I like the Morgans model," he said. "This is a one-of-a-kind opportunity. The Hard Rock is one of the most iconic properties in Vegas."
Golden's annual rent is believed to be less than market rate for a casino of the Hard Rock's size and reputation. But the incentives, including the bonus and a potential partnership in the Hard Rock, are significant.
Golden is betting that the property will earn more than ever under Morgans leadership.
DLJ will be putting up an initial $150 million for upgrades at the Hard Rock, which may include expanding the property, as well as a separate $600 million loan for future projects.
Morgans will receive a 4 percent management fee from DLJ as well as performance-based bonuses to operate the noncasino areas of the Hard Rock. As an added insurance policy, both parties are subject to loan guarantees that the Hard Rock upgrades will be completed and perform to expectations.
The setup may not have passed muster decades ago because of concerns that unlicensed entities and convoluted third-party arrangements could open the door to shady business operators, legal experts say.
"In the old days operators would have waited until they were licensed to buy the property," Hard Rock gaming attorney Jeff Silver said. "But now everyone's in a hurry and financial markets are moving quickly."
But Gaming Control Board member Mark Clayton said the arrangement with yet-to-be-licensed landlords, as well as bonuses and revenue-sharing, isn't unique. In recent years the Reno Hilton and several downtown casinos changed hands with third-party casino managers at the helm.
Wall Street dollars effectively pushed out mob ownership of casinos, removing fears about disreputable front companies. These days, "unknown" partners are likely to be blue-chip investment bankers and public companies managing billions of dollars. Regulators are now more familiar with these entities, particularly private funds that finance business deals and are now seeking a more active role in operating casinos and other businesses.
Morgans is a respected company known for developing exclusive hotels, such as the Delano in Miami's South Beach, in the world's cultural centers. The small company, analysts say, probably wouldn't have been able to afford the purchase without help from DLJ Merchant Banking, led by a banker who financed the Strip's first megaresorts and is familiar with the gaming licensing process.
"This is a unique marriage," said Neal Pomroy, managing director of DLJ Merchant Banking. "We have a shared view of what that property can be. Morgans is one of the leaders in managing boutique properties and harnessing their value. And you can't find many private equity sponsors with (gaming) experience."
Morgans was under a time crunch to buy the Hard Rock, sold in a private auction that attracted other bidders. The New York hotelier was eager to own its first casino in Las Vegas.
"We didn't feel there were many properties with the potential that the Hard Rock has," Pomroy said.
Some on Wall Street have unfairly characterized the deal as risky because of its unique characteristics, Pomroy said.
"I wouldn't make that leap," he said. "We think this is a very good investment that will (become less risky) as improvements are made."
Golden's reputation, rather than its money, is at stake. Running a successful casino will burnish its image but could harm the company should the venture fail. The company also is on the hook should the casino violate any gaming rules.
"Obviously there's a risk when you have a company that owns the property and a separate company that runs an integral part of the operation," Sartini said. "We felt it was a risk worth taking."
Memories of music legends kept alive by Hard Rock hotel
“It’s only rock ‘n’ roll but I like it.” - Mick Jagger
Saturday, March 11, 1995 | midnight
An ocean of hard bodies, scrubbed skin, black leather and faded denim converged on the Hard Rock Hotel on opening day.
They strolled along laminated wooden floors, marveling at the rock memorabilia, stopping occasionally to play slot machines, at least some of which raise money to save the world's rain forests.
To those who haven't quite gotten the message yet that Las Vegas has done a 180-degree flip since the days when big guys in tailored dark suits ran everything, and the only music one heard in the gaming area was the echo from the lounge, come to the Hard Rock hotel-casino and behold the future of gaming.
It's a future filled with rock videos and glass cases filled with clothing worn by rock stars.
Look around the Hard Rock or other local casinos and you'll see fewer people sitting around the bar and more working out at the hotel health club.
There are still plenty of empty drink glasses and beer bottles, but there are also empty Evian and Poland Spring watter bottles.
One wonders what Stevie Ray Vaughan - whose quotes and memorabilia are displayed throughout the hotel - would have thought about the whole thing.
"I met him," said Juanita Stevens, a grandmother who looked much younger than her years, and who was strolling through the casino with her husband, Paul.
Stevens had met Vaughan at a truck stop in Beckley, W.Va., in the mid 1960s when she was a young woman and he was an up-and-coming blues guitarist.
Vaughan, who was playing his guitar at the truck stop, was very nice, Stevens said, and didn't complain when she grabbed her acoustic guitar and started jamming with him.
Vaughan is gone today, killed in a helicopter crash in August 1990.
Others who are playing the night shift include John Lennon, Duane Allman, Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, Otis Redding, Janis Joplin, Buddy Holly, Marvin Gaye and Sam Cooke.
And those are just a few of the rock legends who are with us today in spirit.
We know them through their biographies, through those who worked with them, and through their music.
Goodness knows what some of them would have thought of the Hard Rock hotel-casino.
The new casino is certainly smart and high-tech and offers so many amenities and luxuries that it's sure to be a model for things to come in the new Las Vegas.
Can you imagine Jim Morrison, Keith Moon and Harry Nilsson at the Hard Rock?
All three pop pioneers probably would have ended up getting trashed and escorted out the door by several of the Hard Rock's well-buffed security guards, who wore dark charcoal T-shirts, slacks and jackets.
And along the way to the exit, Lennon probably would have howled at the idea of little old ladies playing slots to the sound of "Imagine."
A song like that one takes on new meaning in a casino - even one that tries to help the environment and donates leftover food and clothing to the homeless.
"Imagine there's no busted 21 hands,
"See it if you try.
"Nothing to make us run to cash machines,
"In front of us only pie."
We can frequent the Hard Rock hotel-casino.
We can purchase $245 leather and cloth jackets, and we can marvel at the classic Corvettes, Harleys and Stratocasters.
And we can admire President Morton for bringing a new level of gaming entertainment to Las Vegas and for doing his part to help the environment by recycling paper and contributing proceeds to conservation groups.
But don't think for a minute that visiting the Hard Rock can bring you any closer to the spirit of Jim Croce or Ronnie Van Zant.
So, if you visit the Hard Rock this weekend, enjoy the music of Weezer, Billy Idol and the Eagles.
Savor the hearth-baked pizza at Mr. Lucky's 24-7 restaurant.
Feel good about yourself because you've chosen to play a casino that tries a little harder to be environmentally conscious.
But when you walk by the glass display of outfits worn by members of the Supremes and Temptations remember that of the eight original members of both groups, only three survive today.
That's why they're legends.
It's easy to have a good time at the Hard Rock.
But it's very tough to be a rock star in America.
Keep that in mind when you walk along the wooden floors or the leopard-skin rugs of the hotel-casino.
Maybe you'll be lucky and you'll hear Roy Orbison's "Only the Lonely," as I did on opening day.
Remember the words?
"There goes my baby. There goes my heart. all gone forever. So far apart."
When Vegas hotels upgrade … New operators must make call on future
By Liz Benston
Sunday, Oct. 15, 2006 | 7:30 a.m.
When Peter Morton opened the Hard Rock Hotel in 1995, he created a sex-and-rock-'n'-roll atmosphere that helped transform Las Vegas from a town of dated lounge acts and fanny-packed tourists to a celebrity hangout for the hip and beautiful.
The iconic property was a marketing milestone but only marginally profitable - breaking even on expensive rock acts and cashing in as much on top-shelf alcohol as on slot machines. Strip casinos with bigger pockets adopted the strategy for themselves and are now spending millions on swank nightclubs and other late-night venues to capture an audience the Hard Rock previously had to itself.
And now, the one-time vanguard property is at a crossroads: Should it be maintained as a gracefully aging brand, or be dramatically upgraded?
The decision won't be made by Morton. He's in the midst of selling the Hard Rock to Morgans Hotel Group, a boutique hotelier out of New York that is embarking on its first casino venture.
Known for expensive, clubby brands such as the Miami's Delano, Los Angeles' Mondrian and New York City's Royalton, Morgans thinks it's high time the Hard Rock got a face lift becoming of its off-Strip legacy.
"With new entrants in the market, while the Hard Rock has continued to do very well, it has not really changed a lot in the last five years," Morgans Chief Executive Ed Scheetz told the Sun. "We see significant opportunities there."
By improving the property and folding it into a larger, more efficient chain of small hotels, "we think we can create a lot of operating profitability," he said.
Morgans hopes to close on its $770 million purchase of the Hard Rock by early next year. The deal includes 23 acres behind the Hard Rock and rights to build other Hard Rock-brand hotels and casinos in several Western states.
Wall Street is concerned with how Morgans, a small, New York company with a strained balance sheet and disappointing stock price can afford the purchase. Small by Las Vegas standards, the 650-room Hard Rock, sitting on 17 acres, would be the company's largest and most expensive project to date.
Morgans is only too happy to take the plunge.
The company had been scoping out properties Las Vegas for several years to round out its high-end portfolio. The company's hotel customers already travel here for work and pleasure.
"We've obviously known about the property and Peter for a long period of time," Scheetz said. "It's an iconic property. It's the original boutique hotel in that market. Peter Morton is attempting to target a similar type of market that our company is trying to attract."
Resort land in Las Vegas is akin to a highbrow buffet - unique and too rich for the faint of heart. Morgans, which buys and builds properties in some of the world's most expensive ZIP codes, isn't afraid to pony up.
"It's very difficult to acquire major properties in Vegas these days," Scheetz said. "The market is tight and land prices are high. It was an unusual opportunity to acquire any sizable property in the market, (let alone) one with the recognition and history and longevity and style."
Scheetz says the company has worked hard to keep hip brands relevant.
"The Delano was the first boutique hotel in South Beach and continues to outperform the market. It's still the place to go. We are competing with hotels that were built a year ago and cost a lot to build."
Morgans is not delusional about what it's trying to do, Scheetz said.
"We don't underestimate the competition in Vegas or anywhere else," he said. "It's intense and fierce. The playing field is different than it was 10 years ago. We're new to the market, and we respect the fact that we have things to learn."
The Hard Rock has managed to do well in spite of few major upgrades over the years, Scheetz said.
Compared with the company's densely built hotels in New York and London, the Hard Rock site, with surface parking in front, has space for more hotel rooms, high-rise parking and other attractions.
Morton was on the cusp of building more than $1 billion in luxury condos behind the property when he put everything up for sale this year.
Morgans has appointed a veteran hotel executive of the New York-based chain Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, which owns the Sheraton, Westin, W and St. Regis brands, to run the company's Las Vegas operations.
Randy Kwasniewski, who briefly worked at the Hard Rock, will oversee the Hard Rock as well as the development of Morgan's Delano and Mondrian hotels at Echelon Place, Boyd Gaming Corp.'s $4 billion-plus resort complex that will begin construction at the Stardust site next year.
Scheetz wouldn't disclose specifics about the company's plans for the Hard Rock, though experts say upgrades could include more rooms and entertainment offerings.
Key to the Hard Rock's future is the rear acreage, which the company will either expand onto, sell, or develop with investment partners.
The Hard Rock, which attracts a younger and less affluent customer than the company's other properties, hardly registers in the blue-blood world of high-society hotels.
Even so, Morgans wants to keep the brand name - the first time one of its acquisitions has had its name preserved.
"Our growth efforts have focused on the Mondrian and Delano," Scheetz said. "But we have a lot of other brands that we created as we entered new markets."
That's why Morgans' purchase says a lot about where Las Vegas - a growing playground for the rich and famous - is headed.
"We think Las Vegas is one of the key markets - like New York or L.A. or London - for a company like ours," he said. "We think it's critical. It's clearly a place where everyone wants to be ."
It's also a place where the profit and expansion potential - unlike other land-constrained areas like New York and London - is huge.
"The scale of things that can get done in Vegas is larger," he said. "With the evolution of the market and the development of higher-end properties, it's a place where you can make lots of money."
"We're going to be a pretty small player in a very large market. I think this will have a big impact on the company."