Las Vegas tribal gaming firm cuts management jobs

A shakeup aimed at cutting costs was announced Thursday at American Vantage Companies, a Las Vegas firm involved with Indian casinos and other ventures.

American Vantage said its board of directors has approved a reorganization in which longtime Chairman, CEO and President Ronald J. Tassinari will relinquish his management titles but remain chairman of the board of directors.

Tassinari will step down as president and the company will eliminate the positions of CEO and chief financial officer, the company said.

Former CFO Anna Morrison’s final day with the company was Aug. 31, American Vantage said.

Douglas Sanderson, a current board member, was appointed interim president.

"The company has performed the reorganization as a cost-saving effort and to provide a streamlined management structure," American Vantage said in a statement.

Tassinari, one of the founders of the company in 1979, had been earning about $452,000 per year in 2007 and 2008 – the last years for which the company disclosed his salary.

Morrison had earned $317,000 in 2007 and $293,000 in 2008.

American Vantage, founded as Western Casinos Inc., has been involved in Indian gaming management since 1991, developed the Border Grill at Mandalay Bay, has been involved in film and television productions and has been involved in the recruitment and placement industry.

In its June 30, 2009, financial report – the last publicly disclosed -- American Vantage said it had assets of $9.8 million and liabilities of $6 million.

The company said that for the first half of 2009, it generated investment income of $127,000 but had expenses of $1.3 million, leading to a net investment loss of $1.189 million.

American Vantage has been mired in litigation since February in federal court in California with the Big Sandy Rancheria of Mono Wind Indians over the tribe's planned 300-room, 2,000-slot machine hotel-casino development.

The tribe sued in Fresno to cancel the hotel-casino development deal with American Vantage subsidiary Brownstone LLC, charging Brownstone needs to be licensed under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act but refuses to do so.

American Vantage has maintained Brownstone doesn’t need to be licensed and that lawsuit remains active.

Attorneys for Brownstone filed a counterclaim against the tribe on Tuesday, charging the licensing issue is a pretext for the tribe to avoid repaying Brownstone nearly $573,000 million due under its $1 million loan to the tribe.

As for the elimination of the CEO and CFO positions at American Vantage, Tassinari said in a statement: “We are pleased to have Mr. Sanderson as interim president of the company. I look forward to working with him on our current projects.”

Sanderson was appointed to the company’s board in October 2007.

He has served as president of La Jolla Gaming, a provider of server-based technology and gaming software; CEO of Fortune Entertainment Corp., CEO of Sega Gaming Technology Inc. and a former sales executive for Bally Gaming (now Bally Technologies) and IGT.

“I look forward to this new role and I am anxious to start working with Ron and the board to enhance our position in the gaming industry,” Sanderson said in a company statement.