Lobbyist OK'd to Buy Into Casino

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An application to allow gambling lobbyist Harvey Whittemore and his wife an option to buy 10-percent of the stock in Nevada Casinos Inc. was approved Thursday by the Nevada Gaming Commission.

Nevada Casinos plans to spend about $55 million on a new casino in Reno that will use the license for the Old Reno Casino, one of the last small clubs in downtown Reno.

"It was a very simple and straightforward application," Whittemore's sister and Nevada Casinos lawyer Ellen Whittemore said Thursday after the commission voted. "It is no big deal."

Whittemore has said the option stems from his efforts to help Peppermill co-owner Bill Paganetti acquire the Old Reno Casino.

Whittemore got the purchase rights from former owner Eb Cox and sold them to Nevada Casinos for $200,000, the same amount he'll pay to exercise his option for an interest in the company.

Gaming Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander said in an Aug. 6 meeting that Whittemore would have to apply for a state gambling license as a part owner of Nevada Casinos Inc.

Whittemore said that would change his long-standing role as a lobbyist for major Nevada resorts. Whittemore said he'd have to "re-evaluate" that role.

"I think we have discussed the effect of being a casino owner would have on his lobbying activities," Ellen Whittemore said. "But he hasn't made any decision one way or another.

Whittemore will have to appear before the board again to obtain a gambling license.

Efforts to reach Harvey Whittemore were unsuccessful Thursday afternoon.