Bookmakers are planning to trial roulette-based gaming machines in their shops, despite opposition from Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Michael McDowell. - Monday 11th of December 2006

Brownstein Hyatt & Farber is placing a big bet in Las Vegas.

The politically connected Denver law firm will merge Jan. 1 with Schreck Brignone, a Las Vegas firm known for its A-list gaming clients.

The firm will be named Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck and will be headquartered in Denver. It will have roughly 160 lawyers and 12 lobbyists, with 26 attorneys coming from Schreck Brignone.

Brownstein Hyatt & Farber has doubled in size since 2001, with most of the growth coming since 2003, when the firm had about 95 attorneys.

The merger gives Brownstein Hyatt & Farber a strong presence in booming Las Vegas, founding partner Steve Farber said.

"The economic base in Nevada is incredible, and theres no reason to believe it shouldnt continue to grow," said Farber, adding that the firm has been interested in expanding to Las Vegas for several years.

With its new strength in gaming, the firm could become a player in the industrys growth outside Las Vegas.

In Colorado, for example, casinos are considering a 2008 ballot initiative to eliminate the $5 bet limit at the states three gambling towns.

On the Mississippi coast, casino owners are helping lead the areas rebound from the Katrina hurricane and floods. The state agreed to allow them to rebuild their decimated gambling barges on land.

The current Brownstein firm has clients in the Las Vegas area, including the Greenspun Corp., a media, casino and real-estate company. It also represents the Isle of Capri casino in Black Hawk.

For Schreck Brignone, the deal gives it the size to take on bigger projects on a broader scope, founding partner Frank Schreck said.

"My firm has always been right at the top in gaming as Brownstein is in doing high-level corporate commercial real estate and transactional work," Schreck said. "But the projects now are getting so large I really cant staff them anymore. I wanted to get a critical mass."

Schreck is a former Nevada gaming commissioner whose firm represents some of Las Vegas biggest casinos, including Wynn Resorts, MGM Mirage, Mandalay Resort Group, Park Place Entertainment and Harrahs Entertainment.

Schreck client and casino magnate Steve Wynn said the attorney is "soft-spoken and elegant ... a silk-glove guy" whos "just smart."

"Frank is the guy you want as your representative," Wynn said. "When youre in an intensely regulated business, the people who represent you are responsible for the impressions you make. ... Thats why personality and style are so important."

Schreck has close relationships with Nevadas politicians, his friends said.

"He has without question become the pre-eminent gaming lawyer in Las Vegas and possibly anywhere in the world," said former Nevada Gov. Bob Miller. "He has a very strong work ethic. I think he has cultivated the respect of people in the regulatory world by always being forthcoming."

Schreck, 63, has known Brownstein Hyatt & Farber founding partner Norm Brownstein for 20 years, he said. They have worked together on casino business in Las Vegas and golfed together in Hawaii. He also is friends with Farber.

Brownstein broached the subject of a partnership years ago, but Schreck didnt become interested until recently as he watched the gaming industry consolidate and deals become more complex.

He and Farber initiated discussions last year during a vacation to Europe. Talks picked up this year with Brownstein Hyatt & Farber chief executive Bruce James and Schreck Brignone managing partner Ellen Schulhofer. James will remain CEO of the firm and Schulhofer will join the executive committee.

Farber and Schreck each said the firms have similar cultures - "like a family," according to Schreck. Both firms passed over other potential merger partners because their cultures didnt mesh.

The Las Vegas office will be Brownsteins seventh. It has offices in Denver, Aspen, Washington, Orange County, Calif., and Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

Other Denver law firms with Las Vegas offices include Holland & Hart and Sherman & Howard.

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