Sentencing Of Las Vegas Casino Boss Could Impact NY Casino Licensing Process

Written By David Danzis on May 9, 2024 - Last Updated on May 10, 2024
Image of a sign for Resorts World Las Vegas for a story on how the Scott Sibella sentencing might affect Resorts World and MGM in the downstate New York casino licensing process.

While there is no straight line between the downstate New York casino licensing process and Wednesday’s criminal sentencing of a former Las Vegas casino boss, the degree of separation is small enough for regulators in Schenectady to take notice.

A federal judge in Los Angeles sentenced Scott Sibella, a former top executive at both MGM Grand and Resorts World Las Vegas, to one year of probation and levied a fine for violating anti-money laundering laws.

So, then, how does this all tie back to the Empire State? Well, it has less to do with Sibella himself and more to do with his former employers.

Recapping Sibella’s indiscretions in Las Vegas

Sibella was president and chief operating officer of MGM Grand from 2011 until he left in 2019 to become president of Resorts World. He oversaw the opening of Resorts World in 2021 and ran the casino resort until 2023.

The parent companies of MGM Grand (MGM Resorts International) and Resorts World Las Vegas (Genting Group) are two of the 11 known bidders for three available downstate NY casino licenses. The indirect and unknowing involvement of MGM and Genting in the Sibella saga could become problematic for NY gaming regulators weighing the suitability and viability of candidates for class III gaming licenses.

Officials in New York must now consider if MGM and Genting have adequate internal controls to operate in accordance with state gaming laws in the Empire State.

According to court documents, Sibella was the top executive at the MGM Grand while Wayne Nix, a one-time minor-league baseball player turned black-market sports bookie, gambled and paid debts with cash at the property. Nix also gambled at other MGM Resorts International properties in Las Vegas not under Sibella’s supervision.

Nix is awaiting criminal sentencing for operating an illegal sports betting operation and avoiding taxes.

Sibella pleaded guilty to a single count of failing to file a suspicious activity report, as required by law. Thus far, he is the only MGM employee charged and convicted in connection to Nix’s gambling habits in Sin City.

Sibella incidents deliver significant black eye in Nevada

The Sibella incident is a black eye and a body blow for gambling regulators in Nevada. State regulators absolved the casino boss of any wrongdoing in a separate and unrelated matter just months before the federal government brought its case against Sibella. In the 93 years of legal gambling in Nevada and 65 years of regulated casinos, the Sibella incident may be among the most embarrassing for Silver State officials.

Nevada casino regulators are only now considering revoking or suspending Sibella’s state gambling license. The Nevada Gaming Control Board filed a complaint on April 30, which has yet to be considered by the Nevada Gaming Commission.

MGM Grand and The Cosmopolitan, now under MGM Resorts’ control, recently settled a related case stemming from a US Justice Department money laundering probe. The Sin City resorts paid a combined $7.45 million. They also agreed to an external review and to step up their anti-money laundering compliance programs.

Unrelated to Sibella, Resorts World Las Vegas finds itself at the center of another gambling scandal. The Genting property on The Strip is currently part of the ongoing criminal investigation of Ippei Mizuhara, the former interpreter for MLB superstar Shohei Ohtani, who allegedly stole $17 million from the Japanese ballplayer to fuel his self-described gambling addiction.

Parent companies of Vegas casinos have New York roots, as well

MGM Resorts and Genting Group presently operate racinos in NY, including MGM Empire City in Yonkers and Resorts World New York City at Aqueduct Raceway in Queens.

The NY racinos are generally considered frontrunners for two of the downstate licenses. The downstate area includes all five boroughs of NYC, Long Island and Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties.

New York gambling has major plans on the horizon

New York gambling regulators are trying to avoid a similar public relations disaster. The three downstate NY casinos are projected to generate billions of dollars in economic activity and tax revenue.

Perhaps even rival Las Vegas itself.

New York is also exploring the possibility of further expanding legal online gambling, including online casinos in New York as well as lottery and poker.

The success of mobile sports betting in NY has invigorated conversations in Albany about legalizing other forms of digital gambling to generate tax revenue and plug budget shortfalls.

Time will tell how Sibella’s sentencing might affect those plans.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to more accurately reflect the court’s statement of fact.)

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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.

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