Boyd Gaming Casino Operator Hires New General Counsel

Thursday 12th December 2019

Boyd Gaming Corp. will soon have a new legal chief for the first time in more than 20 years.

The Paradise, Nev.-based casino and hospitality company disclosed in a Dec. 9 securities filing that longtime general counsel Brian Larson will retire Dec. 15. Larson, a former partner at Snell & Wilmer, joined Boyd Gaming in 1993, and became the company's top in-house lawyer five years later.

Over the next two decades, Larson oversaw teams of outside lawyers advising the company as it sought to expand its U.S. operations. In 2004, Larson worked with Cravath Swaine & Moore in handling Boyd Gaming's $1.3 billion buy of Coast Casinos Inc.

Morrison & Foerster then took the outside counsel lead for Boyd Gaming on its $1.45 billion acquisition in 2012 of Midwestern casino operator Peninsula Gaming LLC, and its $280.5 million purchase in 2018 of the Valley Forge Casino Resort in King of Prussia, Pa.

Larson didn't immediately respond to a request for comment about his future plans or who might replace him in the general counsel role at the company. Nor did a spokesman for Boyd Gaming.

Securities filings by Boyd Gaming show that Larson sold 32,638 shares of stock in the company at an average price of $28.37 on Nov. 8. Larson made $925,940 from that sale. He still owns 36,783 shares in Boyd Gaming valued at more than $1.04 million, according to Bloomberg data. Larson earned more than $2 million in total compensation from Boyd Gaming in 2018, per a proxy statement filed by the company, which last month announced a $750 million notes offering.

Boyd Gaming's executive chairman is attorney William Boyd, whose name adorns the law school of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and who co-founded the company in 1975 with his late father, casino mogul Samuel Boyd. Another prominent Las Vegas lawyer, John Bailey, managing partner and co-founder of local law firm Bailey Kennedy, is a member of Boyd Gaming's board of directors.

Boyd Gaming has been busy this year lobbying on a variety of gaming-related issues. Federal filings show that through the first three quarters of 2019, the company paid $180,000 apiece to the law firm Alston & Bird and government relations firm Peck Madigan Jones to advise on online wagering, tribal recognition, and land trust matters. Boyd Gaming's in-house advocacy arm incurred $350,000 in costs during that same time frame, according to U.S. Senate records.

Bloomberg data show that New Orleans-based Murphy Rogers Sloss Gambel & Tompkins and national labor and employment firm Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart have handled the bulk of Boyd Gaming's outside litigation work during the past five years.

Other Appointments

Larson is just one of several gaming-focused lawyers on the move so far this month.

Score Media and Gaming Inc., a Toronto-based digital media company with interests in the gambling space, announced Dec. 9 its hire of Josh Sidsworth as general counsel and chief compliance officer. Sidsworth had previously been general counsel and executive vice president of corporate development at Toronto-based NRT Technology Corp.

Penn National Gaming, a Wyomissing, Pa.-based casino and racetrack operator, announced Dec. 3 the promotion of senior vice president of corporate development and former deputy general counsel Chris Rogers to chief strategy officer. Carl Sottosanti has been Penn National's general counsel since 2014, while Karin Ashford serves as the gaming outfit's vice president of legal and business affairs.

The gradual spread across the U.S. of legalized sports betting led to former Duane Morris partner Jennifer Roberts in Las Vegas being hired in late November as director of sports gaming regulation at the Tennessee Education Lottery Corp. in Nashville. Roberts most recently served as an associate director of the International Center for Gaming Regulation at UNLV. Tennessee legalized online sports betting July 1.

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