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SLS Hotel Owner Gets To Keep His Vegas Gaming License By Being Super Sorry

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The SLS (Photo by via the DurangoBeach on Flickr)
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L.A. nightlife entrepreneur Sam Nazarian managed to keep his gaming license despite failing a drug test and being called out for making blackmail payments to convicted felons with one time-honored trick: saying he was so sorry. Nazarian had his hearing yesterday. Prior to the meeting, the members of the Nevada Gaming Commission had already made up their minds that they would be rejecting his application. However, a contrite Nazarian willing to compromise and seek rehab swayed their decision in his favor, the L.A. Times reports.

Nazarian is the man behind SBE. His portfolio includes 51 restaurants (including Katsuya and Umami Burger), 17 nightclubs and six hotels. This would include the SLS hotel and casino in Vegas, formerly the Sahara. To keep his 10 percent stake in the SLS, Nazarian had to apply for a gaming license from the Nevada Gaming Commission. He ran into some trouble when he—surprise!—failed a drug test it and it was discovered that he'd been making huge payments to felons—an ex-con named Derrick "Smokey" Armstrong, the notorious "Suge" Knight of Death Row Records and racketeer Hai Waknine. In total, he paid out $3 million. This is the precisely the type of stereotypical behavior that the gaming commission is trying to filter out in an attempt to clean up Sin City's image.

It never came out what Armstrong and the rest were holding over him, though Nazarian said it was simply fear. He said he was afraid he or his family would be hurt, or that Armstrong might do something that would cause him to lose his investors.

Ultimately, Nazarian will be taking a little break from SBE and working on himself. He's turned SLS over to be managed by a principle investor and has agreed to create a $50,000 credit line which will be used for random drug testing and other investigations the commission may seek. He is also working with Michael Levy, a physical in Vegas, on his addiction issues—namely, Nazarian said, alcohol, though he also admitted to being a "social" cocaine user.

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Commission Chair Tony Alamo said, "I always want to give someone a chance. I want to give them enough rope to save themselves—or to hang themselves." He also jokingly told Nazarian that if he didn't keep his promises, they'd beat his lawyer to death.

Commissioner Randolph J. Townsend told Nazarian he should try to get a movie deal out of the whole thing.

That's Vegas, baby. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯