How Executive Scandal & Illegal Gambling In Las Vegas Could Affect Downstate NY Casino Bids

Written By David Danzis on October 4, 2023
Image of Scott Sibella, a Las Vegas casino executive with ties to Resorts and MGM whose firing could affect downstate NY casino licensing

The recent ouster of a high-profile Las Vegas gambling executive could have ramifications that stretch well beyond the desert and make it all the way to the Big Apple.

Gambling regulators in New York are paying close attention to what happens next to Scott Sibella because of his ties to both Resorts World and MGM Resorts.

Sibella, a veteran casino executive, was shown the door last month by Resorts World Las Vegas, where he had been serving as president and chief operating officer. Prior to joining the Genting Group’s Resorts World property in Sin City, Sibella ran the MGM Grand for eight years.

Genting and MGM Resorts are among the likely bidders vying for one of three available downstate New York casino licenses. Both currently operate racinos in the downstate NY region that could be converted into class III gaming facilities. Genting runs Resorts World NYC in Queens and Resorts World Catskills in Monticello. MGM operates Empire City Casino in Yonkers.

But why would state regulators care about a personnel decision across the country?

Feds looking into illegal sports betting ring

According to a statement from Resorts World Las Vegas, Sibella was let go because “the company was recently made aware that (he) violated company policies and the terms of his employment.”

Sibella was the subject of an investigation by the Nevada Gaming Control Board but was cleared of wrongdoing in 2022. However, various media outlets have reported that federal authorities are still looking into Sibella’s possible connection to an illegal gambling ring during his time at the MGM Grand.

PlayNY has independently confirmed a report by the New York Post that Sibella’s situation is being monitored closely by gambling regulators in New York. Any ethical concerns or legal issues with Sibella could complicate his former employers’ plans in NY.

NY casino overseers want ‘good corporate citizens’

Sources for PlayNY work or have worked, in some capacity, with the New York State Gaming Commission, Genting and MGM Resorts on regulatory matters, and cannot comment publicly. But one source said the NYSGC has an “obligation” to look a little harder at both Genting and MGM Resorts during the licensing process if Sibella is charged with an actual crime at any point.

“Gaming regulators would have no choice but to ask both companies what they knew (about Sibella), when they knew it, and what they did about it once they found out,” the source said.

“All of it speaks to a company’s ability to be a good corporate citizen. If (NY gambling) regulators are not satisfied with the answers, that could be enough to sway a favorable licensing determination.”

The bidding war for the three downstate NY casino licenses is underway. There are 11 known proposals, including some of the biggest names in gambling, such as Bally’s, Caesars, Wynn, Hard Rock and Las Vegas Sands. This already-competitive process carries even more weight when you consider companies that secure retail licenses will be in prime position to offer mobile gaming when NY online casinos inevitably become legal down the road. Some of the proposals call for billions of dollars of investment and thousands of jobs while promising community development and additional local taxes.

‘Razor thin’ margin of error in race for NY casino license

The Nevada Current reports that federal law enforcement is investigating allegations that current and former MGM Grand employees were using casino assets to pay gambling debts and providing confidential customer data to an illegal gambling ring that operated for almost two decades.

The gambling ring was run by former minor league baseball player Wayne Nix, who pled guilty last year to conspiring to run an illegal betting operation and filing false tax returns. Nix’s illegal sportsbook catered to current and former athletes, according to authorities.

PlayNY industry sources say Empire State gambling regulators would have more questions for MGM than Genting considering the Nix allegations. However, the gaming world is a “close-knit community” and there is “zero chance” Sibella’s reputation did not precede him when he took the job at Resorts World in 2019, they said.

“MGM could have bigger problems on its hands and a New York casino license may be the least of their worries. But Genting’s decisions are going to come into question as well,” the source said.

“At the end of the day, (NY) regulators are going be choosing from some highly-qualified candidates (for a downstate license), and the margin for error for those companies is razor thin.”

Photo by Louis Traub / AP Photo
David Danzis Avatar
Written by
David Danzis

David Danzis is a writer for PlayNY. A New Jersey native and honors graduate of Rutgers University, he served as a newspaper reporter for the New Jersey Herald and Press of Atlantic City, earning statewide awards for his coverage of politics, government, education, sports and business. Today, he contributes to New York's growing legal gambling landscape, including online sports betting and potential legalization of NY online casinos. David lives in Mays Landing with his wife and two children. When not on the beach, a golf course, or snowboarding, David enjoys watching his beloved New York sports teams — Yankees, Jets, Rangers and Knicks.

View all posts by David Danzis
Privacy Policy