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Current casino owner who books fight shows appointed to Nevada athletic commission by Brian Sandoval
By Zach Arnold | March 18, 2014
Governor Brian Sandoval’s office appointed Laughlin casino owner Anthony Marnell III to the Nevada State Athletic Commission. The appointment will last until November. Marnell is a fill-in appointment for the late TJ Day, who died in Reno on January 24th at the age of 64.
Marnell’s company oversees the Edgewater Casino & Colorado Belle Casino in Laughlin, Nevada along with the city’s Event Center. Those casinos happen to book fighting events. And they still are scheduled to do so.
As one insider framed it, “So, he’s a promoter and a regulator? Unreal.”
It would be one thing if Marnell was still in the casino business but had agreed to stop hosting fight shows at said casinos in exchange for the appointment. That’s not the case here. A quick look on the Nevada State Athletic’s Commission web site tells you everything you need to know. Edgewater has two King of the Cage dates coming up on June 7th and September 20th. Edgewater was also the site for a recent ESPN Boxcino event on February 21st with Banner Promotions.
The conflict of interest is blatant but in the land of Sig Rogich, nobody gives a damn or blinks an eye. No big deal.
What is a big deal, however, is Brian Sandoval’s political future in 2016 and what it means for Harry Reid, the go-to Senator for both Sig Rogich & Lorenzo Fertitta. That’s a much more important political story with some very interesting implications.
Nevada’s top political writer Jon Ralston recently penned an article at Politico about Sandoval’s political future and how Harry Reid does not want to face this guy in a 2016 fight over his current US Senate seat. What makes this story delicious for political nuts is that Sig Rogich, who is Lorenzo Fertitta’s political fixer, is also extremely close to Harry Reid (multi-decade friendship) and is well-connected to Brian Sandoval. Sandoval as Nevada’s Governor decided to build a state insurance exchange for the Affordable Care Act when other Republican state governors balked at the idea. Sandoval also had no real political choice given that Nevada, a politically purple state, is turning blue.
Why should fight fans pay attention to a possible Sandoval/Reid political food fight? Because there are business interests at stake for Lorenzo Fertitta. The UFC has spent a lot of money lobbying in Washington (where Rogich is tied to both Harry Reid & John McCain) and New York (which has failed spectacularly so far). There are three scenarios the UFC does not want to ever see happen in the combat sports industry:
- A federal athletic commission overseeing combat sports regulation.
- The Ali Act being amended to cover both boxing & MMA, allowing MMA fighters a private right of action to sue over contracts in a federal (not state) jurisdiction.
- Momentum for trial lawyers to establish case law to create liability down the road for fighters who are suffering from permanent brain damage.
If any of these changes in the business climate start to take hold in the States, the UFC will threaten to move a lot of their business activity outside of America.
The stakes are very high for Harry Reid’s 2016 re-election bid
Before and after the Washington DC dog-and-pony show press conference to hype up promoters backing the Lou Ruvo Cleveland Clinic’s study of fighter brains, I clearly stated that Sig Rogich was the puppet-master behind everything here and that the purpose of the dog-and-pony show was to convince everyone that there shouldn’t be federal oversight of combat sports & that the promoters aren’t the guilty parties for putting fighters in a position to suffer brain damage.
Naturally, John McCain blurted out something he shouldn’t have said and this time it was the UFC’s version of the truth — that the point of the Lou Ruvo presser was to convey to the public that there shouldn’t be federal oversight of combat sports.
For Rogich & Lorenzo, keeping Harry Reid & John McCain in power is good for business interests. Both Reid & McCain face difficult challenges in 2016. McCain may retire given how hostile the political landscape looks for him. That would be a blow for the UFC’s political cover. However, losing Reid (even if he’s downgraded to minority Senate leader) would be a big blow for Lorenzo & Rogich.
The Washington Times recently ran an article claiming that there is an FBI probe into Senators Harry Reid & Mike Lee that is allegedly being blocked by the Department of Justice. The probe deals with allegations of quid-pro-quos with political donors. One of the claims made in the probe is that Reid changed his stance on online gaming due to a supposed cash transaction.
When Reid ran for re-election in 2010 against Sharron Angle, Reid had a lot of cards to play against Angle. His biggest trump card was the fact that retaining his Senate seat would allow Nevada to continue to bring home the bacon & wield big influence in Washington D.C. Lorenzo & Rogich, along with other casino bosses, lined up behind Reid. As long as Harry Reid is in power, the UFC doesn’t have to worry about seeing their business interests change.
In 2016, however, the prospects of Brian Sandoval running against Harry Reid immediately strips Reid of his biggest selling point in a Senate election. The Republican party bosses in DC are so desperate to find any candidate that can appeal to Hispanic voters that they would immediately promote Sandoval into big positions of influence right away. Sandoval would not be relegated to back-bencher status. He would be a player.
If Sandoval wins, Lorenzo & Rogich have a friendly broker in place. If Reid retains his seat, Lorenzo & Rogich maintain significant political clout to protect their business interests. It’s a no-lose situation, right? Wrong.
Harry Reid didn’t achieve the political success he did by being Mr. Nice Guy. Reid is a highly effective, nasty, in-the-trenches fighter. Reid will do anything and everything to protect his political seat. This puts Lorenzo & Rogich in a horrible spot if their two big Nevada political allies are busy tearing each other down. Reid can’t afford to lose Lorenzo & Rogich as backers. If they bail on him, his political career is in big trouble. If they bail on him and he still manages a way to retain his Senate seat, Reid will never forgive them and will find a way to dish out revenge.
As Ralston points out in his Politico article, the hope in many Nevada political circles is that Sandoval avoids an election fight with Reid. However, if that fight happens, all hell will break loose and suddenly Lorenzo & Rogich will find themselves preoccupied in trying to figure out how to best protect their political & business interests if a scorched earth campaign occurs.