IAC Boss Diller Lands Full Nevada Gaming License

Posted on: May 16, 2024, 04:50h. 

Last updated on: May 17, 2024, 09:13h.

IAC/InterActiveCorp (NASDAQ: IAC) Chairman Barry Diller earned an unrestricted Nevada gaming license Thursday after the Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC) voted 4-1 in favor of granting him that status.

IAC Chairman Barry Diller at a movie premier in 2019. The Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC) granted him a full license in the state. (Image: Monica Schipper/Getty Images)

That ends a more than two-year saga in which Diller held a restricted license due to a federal probe into allegations he may have committed insider trading in options contracts on video game publisher Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ: ATVI) in advance of Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT)  announcing a $68.7 billion takeover offer for that company.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigated options trades placed by Diller, his stepson Alexander von Furstenberg, and entertainment mogul David Geffen. That probe prompted the NGC to grant Diller a restricted license, but two weeks ago, the SEC closed its investigation. That paved the way for Nevada regulators to reexamine Diller’s licensing status in the largest gaming state.

He appeared before the NGC on Thursday via Zoom from New York.

Why Diller Needs Nevada Licensing

While Diller isn’t involved in day-to-day casino operations in Nevada, he needs to be licensed by the state because IAC/InterActiveCorp is the largest shareholder in MGM Resorts International (NYSE: MGM).

As IAC CEO Joey Levin recently noted in his first-quarter letter to investors, the conglomerate now owns 20% of MGM shares outstanding, easily making it the largest investor in the gaming company. Under Nevada law, outside investors who come to control 5% or more of publicly traded gaming entities based in the state must be licensed. NGC commissioners are satisfied with the results of the SEC inquiry and appeared enthusiastic in granting Diller unrestricted licensing.

You’re eminently qualified. Serving on the Coca-Cola board and others, you have experience that very few people have. Good for MGM to have you on the board,” said Commissioner Brian Krolicki at the Thursday meeting.

Both Diller and Levin are members of MGM’s board of directors. Commissioner Rosa Solis-Rainey was the NGC member who opposed full licensing of Diller, noting that the SEC could restart its insider trading investigation. Should that happen, the onus would shift to the NGC in terms of potentially revoking his license.

“I wish there was a way to give him a nonrestricted license with some caveat that if there’s any settlement or prosecution, he comes before us again. I in no way want to impugn his character or history of service to communities or his businesses,” she said.

Other Commissioners Supportive of Diller

Perhaps helpful to Diller’s cause is the point that IAC has availed itself to be a long-term investor in MGM and one that’s not taking a potentially controversial activist stance. August marks the four-year anniversary of IAC buying MGM shares.

Several months later, IAC added to that position. Those investments, coupled with the Bellagio operator’s prolific share repurchases, have helped IAC become the biggest investor in the casino giant, and that appears to be just fine with the NGC.

NGC Chair Jennifer Togliatti praised Diller for being forthright in his testimony while Commissioner Abbi Silver — the newest member of the NGC — said Diller should be licensed without conditions and that she was satisfied with comments by the SEC.