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Former Las Vegas casino executive to be sentenced in bookmaking money laundering case

Scott Sibella admitted to letting an illegal bookmaker bet millions of dollars at MGM Grand and other affiliated properties in order to pay off debts in cash.
MGM Grand hotel-casino
Posted at 6:05 AM, May 08, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-08 08:05:46-04

A former top executive for major Las Vegas casinos was set to appear before a federal judge on Wednesday after admitting he allowed an illegal bookmaker to gamble millions of dollars at the MGM Grand and pay off debts in cash.

Scott Sibella pleaded guilty in January to violating federal anti-money laundering rules that require casinos to file reports of suspicious transactions. He faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Following Sibella's guilty plea, the MGM Grand and nearby Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas settled a related U.S. Justice Department money laundering probe. The resorts agreed to pay a combined $7.45 million, submit to an external review and step up their compliance programs.

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Sibella's attorneys, Jeffrey Rutherford in Los Angeles and John Spilotro in Las Vegas, were seeking leniency and a sentence of probation from U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in Los Angeles. They submitted testimonial letters of support to the judge on Friday, including one from Clark County Sheriff Kevin McMahill, the elected head of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

Rutherford and Spilotro did not respond Tuesday to email messages from The Associated Press.

The bookmaker central to Sibella's case, Wayne Nix, is a former minor league baseball player who lives in Newport Coast, California. He's awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty in April 2022 to operating an illegal gambling business and filing a false tax return.

According to his plea agreement with the government, Sibella allowed Nix to gamble at MGM Grand and affiliated properties with illicit proceeds generated from the illegal gambling business without notifying the casinos' compliance department.

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Sibella told federal investigators in January 2022 “that he had ‘heard that Nix was in the booking business’ and he ‘couldn’t figure out how he had all the money he gambled with.’”

“I didn’t want to know because of my position,” Sibella told investigators. “I stay out of it. If we know, we can’t allow them to gamble. I didn’t ask, I didn’t want to know I guess because he wasn’t doing anything to cheat the casino.”

Sibella was president and chief operating officer of the MGM Grand for eight years and then president of Resorts World Las Vegas until 2023. Federal prosecutors say Ippei Mizuhara, Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani’s former interpreter,transferred money he stole from the Japanese superstar to Resorts World in a scheme to pay off debts to illegal bookmakers. Sibella is not implicated in that case, which also is part of the broad federal investigation into sports gambling.

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Separately, Nevada casino regulators are considering revoking or suspending Sibella's state gambling license and fining him up to $750,000. A complaint filed April 30 by state Gaming Control Board investigators has not yet been considered by the Nevada Gaming Commission.

Sibella held top executive positions at The Mirage and Treasure Island casinos on the Las Vegas Strip before becoming president of the more than 6,800-room MGM Grand in 2011. He left the company in February 2019 and joined Resorts World Las Vegas before Malaysia-based Genting Group opened the $4.3 billion, 66-floor resort in June 2021.

He was dismissed by Resorts World in September 2023 after the company said he "violated company policies and the terms of his employment.”