Scott Sibella, former president and COO of the MGM Grand, pictured here at a 2017 press conference (Mark Damon/Las Vegas News Bureau)
Federal law enforcement agents from California are investigating allegations that current and former Las Vegas hotel employees used casino assets to pay gambling debts and provided confidential customer data to an illegal gambling ring that operated for almost two decades, according to sources.
A state employee, who asked not to be identified for fear of losing his job, says federal agents have interviewed or taken statements from several former employees of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, and have inquired specifically about Resorts World President Scott Sibella, formerly president of the MGM Grand.
The GCB declined to comment, however, an email obtained by the Current that has yet to be authenticated by the GCB indicates regulators are aware of the allegations being investigated by the feds and says “they were already being looked at.”
Federal agents, according to the state employee, are investigating allegations hotel employees at MGM properties used comps and promo chips to pay off personal gambling debts to Wayne Nix, a former minor league baseball player, and money owed to an illegal sports betting operation Nix admits he operated with a handful of others.
Promo chips are free chips provided to high rollers. They are subject to limits and internal controls, however, highly-placed executives often have the authority to override those limits.
The chips can be ‘washed’ in large amounts at the gaming tables by savvy gamblers and redeemed at the casino cage for cash, according to experts. Some casinos have begun to phase out the use of promo chips in recent years because of the potential for abuse.
According to a confidential source, authorities are also looking into whether hotel employees provided confidential customer data to Nix’s operation, encouraged their customers to bet with the illegal ring, and received kickbacks when their players lost.
“We will not have any comment,” Thom Mrozek, spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Justice in Los Angeles said via email.
Sibella, Resorts World general counsel Gerald Gardner, and Rogich Communications, the hotel’s public relations representative, did not respond to requests for comment. MGM general counsel John McManus also did not respond.
The investigation, according to the confidential source, is being conducted by Homeland Security and the Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service, the same agencies that investigated Nix. No charges have been filed.
Last year, Nix entered guilty pleas to conspiring to run an illegal betting operation and filing false tax returns in which he failed to pay income tax on $1.5 million. He is scheduled to be sentenced in March 2024.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Mitchell of the Major Frauds Section of California’s Central District prosecuted the case. The betting ring catered to current and former pro sports figures, according to authorities.
Much of Nix’s federal case is sealed and it’s unknown whether he is cooperating further with federal agents. He did not respond to requests for comment.
Sports betting is now legal in more than 30 states, however, betting with an illegal operation offers benefits not found in legal books, such as utilizing a credit line. Betters in sports books are required to post cash to place a bet.
“It took the U.S. Attorney in California to finally look into this stuff that’s been going on for decades,” said the confidential source who spoke with the Current.
Clean bill of health
Just months ago, the GCB exonerated Sibella when gambler Brandon Sattler alleged the Resorts World president was aware a convicted illegal gambler had an ownership interest in a hotel concession.
In a move out of keeping with GCB protocol, Gov. Joe Lombardo’s newly- appointed Gaming Control board member George Assad unilaterally announced the GCB had cleared Sibella of any wrongdoing when he testified before the GCB in 2022 that he didn’t know Sattler “from Adam.”
Sattler, who faces bankruptcy fraud charges, sought to depose Sibella last year, a move that drew the attention of gaming regulators.
“I met the person twice. He’s been a customer for 20 years,” Sibella told the GCB at the time. “I don’t know him from Adam. He’s done no work at Resorts World.”
Sattler provided the Current with invoices for work his audio/visual company performed at Resorts World.
“Yes, we’ve partied. Yes, we did drugs together, drank together, yes, we went out to eat together,” Sattler said of his relationship with Sibella in a sworn deposition in an unrelated case.
Sattler alleged that while working on the restaurant’s video system, Sibella told him “that Resorts World is a 50% partner in Tacos El Cabron.”
A spokeswoman for Rogich Communications denied the allegations on behalf of Resorts World in late April of last year. Within weeks, the taco stand was closed. The GCB declined to comment.
“After a thorough investigation by the Nevada Gaming Control Board, the allegations by Brandon Sattler against Resorts World and its president, Scott Sibella, were found to be unsubstantiated,” board member Assad said unexpectedly in February, shortly after taking office.
A spokeswoman for Lombardo did not respond to requests for comment on whether the governor is aware of the federal investigation.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.