By Dick Miller
WE.CONNECT.DOTS: An obscure cash-swollen casino run by a protégé of President Trump has captured attention of Federal authorities.
FBI agents raided “Best Sunshine Live” casino on the U.S. controlled tiny island of Saipan this week.
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said this week he would resign as a $5,000-per-month “advisor” to the owners, but he downplayed concern over Fed interest in the operation.
“Best Sunshine Live” Casino is tucked into the Mariana Islands, at least a five-hour jet flight from anywhere. Mark Brown, 56, CEO, was Mr. Trump’s top executive in his gambling operations in Atlantic City until 2005.
The casino, wedged between a cellphone repair shop and laundromat, reported annualized revenues of $3.9 billion early last fall.
By comparison, the strip in Las Vegas does about $6.3 billion in total and the dozen parlors in Pennsylvania did $3.2 billion according to its latest annual report.
Supporters of Best Sunshine say a slump in gambling at Macau, the high-rolling worldwide mecca, generated a windfall for Brown’s operation.
Bloomberg News reports the torrent of cash raises suspicions of money laundering. The U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network sent the FBI agents on the raid.
Gov. Rendell told Philly News last week “Believe it or not, they’re having trouble getting workers there.” He said this has created problems with undocumented workers.
Nevertheless, Rendell announced his decision to resign from the advisory board. “It’s too far away for me to effectively monitor anything that goes on.”
Rendell told online gambling news services that his first and only trip to the Marianas was when he signed on for the casino last summer.
The former Keystone Governor’s involvement helps expose the sordid political underworld of “influence peddling.”
There seems to be no other reason for assembling this “Board of Advisors.” Casino media recognize Brown as one of the premier casino managers on the planet.
Despite history where Trump’s gambling projects in Atlantic City were not more successful, the President doesn’t blame Brown. The two men parted amicably and it is likely that if Trump had not become busy for the next 4-8 years, there would have been more Trump casino ventures with Brown at the helm.
Brown did not exit Atlantic City before Trump.
That said, Brown didn’t need a group of ex-pols to tell him how to run a casino. Brown answers to a board of directors and, ultimately, the shareholders. If Brown doesn’t deliver, all the advisors on earth will not keep him in the saddle.
Asiatic personnel and businesses make up most of the known corporate structure. Because of Federal and Saipan regulations much of Best Sunshine’s business is public record.
Brown’s “Board of Advisors” has just surfaced recently. No one accounts for the board’s defined duties. Nor is it known if they have been convened as a group yet, after a year of existence.
Advisors, clearly lacking technical expertise, are usually expected to open doors, make introductions, solicit investments and lobby government regulators. If advisors also happen to be lawyers, investigations bog down with lawyer-client privilege.
Rendell, 73, was Philadelphia District Attorney, Mayor and Democratic National Chair at the end of the Clinton regime. He was PA Governor 2003-2011.
David Patterson, 62, who filled the last two years of Elliott Spitzer’s term as New York governor when he resigned in the wake of a sex scandal in 2008. He is currently a radio talk show host and NY State Democratic Chair. Patterson recruited Rendell according to an interview the former Pennsylvania Governor gave philly.com, the electronic version of the Inquirer, last November.
James Woolsey, Jr., 75, was CIA director 93-95 and a Navy undersecretary under both Clinton and Carter.
Louis Freeh, 67, was a Federal Judge 91-93, FBI director 93-2001 and now heads his own law firm. Freeh led the internal investigation of Penn State’s child molestation scandal. His unmasking of missed opportunities to take Jerry Sandusky off the street earlier by Centre County prosecutors and PSU administrators led to the demise of President Graham Spanier and cost $8.2 million.
Eugene Sullivan, 75, was a judicial appointment of Ronald Reagan. President George H. W. Bush named him chief of the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces in 1990. He is also a member of Freeh’s law firm.
Haley Barbour, 69, was governor of Mississippi 2004-12 and Republican National Chair 93-97. Rendell recruited Barbour to serve on the advisory board.
Rendell told Philadelphia media that his bagging of Barbour is the only function he performed in the seven months he was paid $5,000 per month.
Bottom Line: The advisory group is slanted to Democrats. Brown would assume he has Trump and Trump operatives to help him if he needs sway on the GOP side.
Best Sunshine holds Saipan’s only gaming license. Bloomberg said it has reported revenues eight times higher than comparable high-roller table activity at competing casinos on the Pacific rim.
Brown is judged too smart to get his operation into a money-laundering scenario. Just in case, he has armed himself with many powerbrokers to ensure he gets a “fair” hearing.