After 11 years covering the gaming industry for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Howard Stutz has stepped down.
Stutz’s tenure as a reporter and columnist in Las Vegas lasted some 30 years, with time spent with both the Las Vegas Sun and Review-Journal.
His latest tenure at the Review-Journal included covering a devastated casino industry following the Great Recession in 2008.
And, being part of the team of reporters who confirmed Sheldon Adelson’s $140 million purchase of Nevada’s largest newspaper.
So, with Howard Stutz off to the Las Vegas law firm Greenberg Traurig, we thought it was the perfect time for a conversation.
On projects along the north end of the Strip:
It seems to be financing in Australia. James Packer the Australian billionaire owns about 73% of that. He’s been looking in Australia and China for money. Now what they’re saying is the U.S. credit markets are not being real warm to it and so it may be delayed.
Andrew Pascal who is the CEO of the project, former Wynn executive, he said it’s just a blip. They’re moving forward. They think it’s the right time. It’s the right project. They’re ready to go ahead.
They’re going through all the planning stages right now. This is what we’ve learned about Genting over the years. They’re very methodically with what they’re doing. They bought the project three years ago from Boyd. They did a ceremonial groundbreaking last year in May. We’ll see. It seems like that they’re going to do something at some point this year but they’re taking their time with it.
The Strip is still in recovery. It doesn’t need any new capacity at this time. So that’s why they’re waiting and playing along with it.
On Fantasy sports:
There are 30 something states that are looking at some type of legislation on daily fantasy sports. There’s lawsuits pending in New York. There are all these issues coming up. Now, here in Nevada the governor’s gaming policy committee is meeting and they’re discussing daily fantasy sports and it’s going to be a very comprehensive hearing on it.
Nevada said it is not illegal to do fantasy sports. They classified it as sports gambling. It’s not illegal. To operate these sites, you just have to have a gaming license to do it and that’s what shut everything down back in October.
I think they’re going to try to come up with some kind of pattern, some kind of path for this to happen in Nevada.
On how the growth of Indian casinos impacted Las Vegas:
Maybe what it has done is… instead of coming to Las Vegas four times a year maybe you go do to Morongo or some place in Riverside county and play golf and stay there for a weekend so you’re only coming three times a year.
It really hasn’t hit Las Vegas. It hit Reno pretty hard when it first happened. It has hit other markets. It has never really hit Las Vegas because you can’t replicate Las Vegas with a few Indian casinos.
On what he’ll be doing at Greenberg Traurig
I’m really looking forward to it. Greenberg Traurig is an international law firm and I’m working in the Las Vegas office and the Global Gaming Group. Working with the lawyers, working with the clients on communication strategies, marketing. I’m hoping to help the firm with some business development, helping the lawyers understand some of the issues… daily fantasy sports, what’s happening in Las Vegas, what’s happening around the world.
On leaving the Review-Journal now:
My life changed on December 10 when the Review-Journal was sold to the family of Sheldon Adelson. An LLC that is controlled by the Adelson family.
On what happened:
This has been compared to Jeff Bezos buying the Washington Post. It is not the same thing. The Adelson family owns two major casinos on the Las Vegas Strip. They’re the biggest players in Macau. Sands is the biggest player in Singapore. Sheldon Adelson, personally, is a huge Republican political donor. It’s not the same thing.
You have an owner who is highly concentrated in the city now where he owns a newspaper. We’re seeing recently… the Sands is pushing a football stadium, taking money away from the LVCVA. There’s those types of issues. It’s just a very weird crossover and now they own the largest newspaper in Nevada.
On covering gaming for a newspaper owned by the family of a casino billionaire:
Here’s what I said from day one: I wasn’t going to cover gaming any differently than I did before Dec. 10. I told that to national reporters. I said that in the newsroom: I wasn’t going to cover the beat any differently.
But… one of the last stories I did was about Macau gaming numbers. I mentioned the Las Vegas Sands. I have to throw a disclaimer in, every story. Anytime I mention Las Vegas Sands or the Adelsons I had to throw in a disclaimer line to the story.
I just kind of held back on somethings. I kind of avoided certain stories and it just became troublesome to the point… After we were able to out the Adelson family as the ownership, about three weeks later the law firm reached out to me.
On hesitating on story:
Do I have to call Las Vegas Sands for a comment? And when I normally wouldn’t have to call them for a comment on a certain story… but there was this ‘Do we have to call them for a comment on a story?’… that became an issue.
It affected me more than any other journalist in the newsroom. I’m sure it has affected others.
On reporting on his own newspaper:
It was extremely difficult. It was exhilarating at the same time, but it was extremely difficult knowing… The L.A. Times had this story. Jim Wright, our deputy editor, told Jennifer Robison and I, ‘you guys are going to write a [in-depth story] on this meeting,’ which was a town hall meeting with our publisher. It went on for like 45 minutes and then they dropped at the end the fact that we had been sold. I turned to Jennifer said, ‘It’s Sheldon.’
The next morning we had all but confirmed that it was Sheldon Adelson because of the $140 million price tag that came out. and then it was just matter of trying to find out whether it was a group of investors, was he part of it, all these different tentacles that we were trying to rein in to try to figure out the story.
It was a challenge because we didn’t know. Are we going to get fired for this? Is anyone going to hire us after this? I’m proud my name was on those stories. I’m proud of the people I worked with on those stories.
Howard Stutz, former gaming reporter and columnist, Las Vegas Review-Journal, and strategic development manager, Greenberg Traurig’s Global Gaming Practice.