Larry Flynt buys Normandie Casino; card rooms dodge house-banked bullet

TAGs: California, cardroom, larry flynt, normandie casino

larry-flynt-normandie-casinoLarry Flynt, founder of the Hustler adult entertainment empire, has bought California card room Normandie Casino.

On Thursday, the California Gambling Control Commission unanimously approved the porn baron/civil liberties champion taking over the Normandie property, which was founded by Russ Miller in 1947 and had remained under the control of Miller family members ever since.

The sale price wasn’t disclosed, but the Miller family was the very definition of motivated sellers, having been given 120 days to sell the property after state regulators revoked the gaming licenses of four Millers in April.

In January, federal authorities imposed a $2.5m penalty on the Normandie’s owners for violations of the Bank Secrecy Act. Casino staff were found to have advised customers on how to structure transactions to avoid federal reporting requirements and failed to flag other dodgy transactions.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the venue would eventually be rechristened Larry Flynt’s Lucky Lady Casino. Flynt already owns the Hustler Casino in Gardena, which is only about two miles down the road from the Normandie.

California’s gaming rules prohibit card rooms like the Normandie from offering ‘house-banked’ games, like blackjack or baccarat, in which players bet against the house rather than against each other as in poker.

But card rooms have long been pushing the envelope by using ‘third-party proposition players’ who have curiously large stacks of chips and serve as a ‘player-dealer’ that other players can bet against, thereby allowing the card rooms to offer blackjack and other Vegas-style card games.

California law requires the player-dealer position to be “continuously and systematically rotated among each of the participants” at the table. But a 2007 letter from former Bureau of Gambling Control boss Robert Lytle – whose sketchy ties to card rooms resulted in his license being revoked in May – told card rooms this rotation was unnecessary, provided the player-dealer verbally offered the position to others players at the table.

On June 30, Bureau chief Wayne Quint issued new guidelines that require the player-dealer position to be rotated every 60 minutes. Failure to do so means the table has to suspend play for two minutes. But so long as that two-minute moratorium is observed, Qunit’s new rules allow the game to resume with the same player-dealer.

While card rooms are feeling like they dodged a regulatory bullet, critics, including tribal casino operators who are supposed to be the only gaming operators legally allowed to offer house-banked games, are crying foul. The Silicon Valley Business Journal quoted one tribal casino operator calling the time-out a “potty break.”

Tribal leaders are still weighing their options for countering Quint’s decision. These include convincing Quint to rethink his position, reminding Gov. Jerry Brown of the ramifications of violating state-tribal gaming compacts or, failing all other solutions, litigation (aka lawyer-banked games).


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