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John L. Smith On The Shake-Up On The Strip

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The news that casino king Sheldon Adelson is being treated for a form of cancer is just the latest story to shake up the gaming industry.

The Nevada Gaming Commission also fined Wynn Resorts $20 million dollars for not doing enough about sexual harassment claims related to founder Steve Wynn.

Add to that the sudden rise of Carl Icahn’s influence inside Caesars Entertainment, and you have an industry in apparently going through dramatic transition.

John L. Smith, longtime state reporter, tells us what he knows.

“Adelson has been so robust - despite the pictures people sometimes see of him in his scooter or getting help walking all that - he’s been such a robust character that I think that people assume that he’ll be there forever,”  he said.

Smith said Adelson hasn't been at the company since December, which is unusual for a man known for having a hand in everything in this company.

“You’re talking about a guy who is a real micromanager style. He’s always at work. He’s always buzzing. For him to even take time off would cause people to speculate,” he said.

As for the future of the company without Adelson at the head of it? Smith is not concerned.

“As observing of the industry, I’m not really fretting about Las Vegas Sands. This is a really robust company with a lot of strengths,” he said.

He believes if Adelson's role is reduced to part-time or emeritus - the company wouldn't really skip a beat. 

Wynn Resorts fined $20 million by Gaming Commission

“This is an enormous statement by the Nevada Gaming Commission, which frankly hasn’t always had the strongest spine. This is an acknowledgment that there is a new chapter being written in Nevada gaming that certain issues, that certain lackadaisical management styles won’t be tolerated,” he said.

Smith explained the Steve Wynn scandal wasn't just an embarrassment up and down Las Vegas Boulevard but an embarrassment around the country.

“It’s a sign that it’s time for the gaming industry to grow up and to be less chauvinistic, more inclusive, and a guess we’ll see what happens but clearly the gaming board is on board with the $20 million drop,” he said.

He believes the changes at casino companies and the embrace of new regulations is setting a new standard in the industry and it is getting noticed.

Carl Icahn making himself heard at Caesars Entertainment

“It may be a necessary thing. For a guy like Icahn, he’s got a nose for profits. So, if he’s there, there will be changes if he can possibly pull it off.”

Smith thinks Caesars sees the benefits of letting Icahn make changes because they've already allowed board members friendly to him onto the board of directors.

Plus, Smith said the changes might not be the worst thing to happen to Caesars. He pointed out that it is a company heavily burdened by debt after coming off its bankruptcy of a few years ago.

John L. Smith, contributor

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.