Texas slot company clears licensing hurdle in Nevada

A small Texas-based slot machine manufacturing company with Las Vegas roots cleared its first hurdle in its bid to compete in Nevada.

The state Gaming Control Board today recommended approval of a license for Multimedia Games Inc. of Austin, Texas, and the suitability and licenses for officers and board directors.

The company, which develops about 25 game titles a year and owns the Xtreme Sevens, Cash Quake, Fortune Teller and Meltdown series of slot machines, initially plans to open a showroom and sales office in Las Vegas and then evaluate whether it would devote technological resources here. Initially, the company would have about 20 employees in Southern Nevada.

The Control Board’s recommendation, approved unanimously, goes before the Nevada Gaming Commission on Sept. 22.

The company works primarily with tribal casinos in Oklahoma, Washington and California and has no pending contracts in Nevada. It is projected to sell 1,000 machines this year.

But some executives with local ties have longed to compete in the state against International Game Technology and Bally Technologies.

Among those recommended for licenses were former Harrah’s Entertainment (now Caesars Entertainment) executives Uri Clinton, general counsel and secretary; Patrick Ramsey, president and CEO; and former Mandalay Bay Senior Vice President Steve Greathouse, the chairman of the board of directors.

Clinton, a graduate of Western High School in Las Vegas and UNLV, was a state Senate candidate in 2000, losing to longtime Sen. Joe Neal. Clinton last week submitted his resignation from Multimedia as of Oct. 7 and will take a general counsel position at Baha Mar in the Bahamas.

“I’ve helped this company get 125 licenses since I’ve been here,” Clinton said after the approval. “But there’s really something special about getting a license in Nevada because it’s home.”

Ramsey, who was an English teacher in Ecuador before getting into the gaming industry, started with Harrah’s as an intern at its Joliet, Ill., casino while attending Northwestern University. He was replaced as Multimedia’s chief operating officer in September 2008 by another former Harrah’s executive, Anthony Sanfilippo, who became president and CEO that year.

When Sanfilippo was hired as the CEO of Pinnacle Gaming, Ramsey took over Multimedia’s CEO responsibilities on a temporary basis in March 2010, then the promotion was made permanent in September 2010.

Greathouse was named vice chairman of Multimedia’s board of directors in April 2009, taking the chairman’s position the next year.

The only concern regulators had about the company was its role in selling machines in commercial casinos in six Alabama cities. Alabama regulators and government leaders had a dispute over the definition of a bingo machine, which looks like and operates like a slot machine.

The dispute erupted into gambling corruption and bribery allegations, but Control Board member A.G. Burnett said Multimedia “did everything it could” to stay clear of trouble.

“They’ve taken a very thoughtful approach to coming to Nevada and a very positive approach to licensing,” board Chairman Mark Lipparelli said.

In other business, the board recommended licenses for Andy Choy, president and CEO of Riviera Holdings Corp., as an officer and director.

Choy said business is improving at the historic Strip hotel after the company’s previous management cut costs too much in an effort to be profitable.

“We’re in the middle of a transformation, but it’s going according to plan,” Choy said.

He said the property’s refurbished sports book opened today, and last month the casino developed the only bingo parlor on the Strip.