Bobby Baldwin

Rumor Mill Swirls (Slowly) as Bobby Baldwin Stepping Down at Bellagio

Among the late-week news-dump items comes the interesting and not-insignificant nugget that 1978 WSOP Main Event champion and Poker Hall of Famer Bobby Baldwin, long a high-ranking executive in the MGM Resorts International casino empire, will be departing his roles at that corporation later this year.

News of Baldwin’s coming departure leaked on late Thursday via Vegas-themed social-media gossip site Vital Vegas, and soon enough, MGM Resorts confirmed Baldwin’s upcoming exodus. What was odd to many onlookers, however, was the brevity of the disclosure in the MGM Resorts announcement. It was all of this:

LAS VEGAS, Oct. 4, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — MGM Resorts International (NYSE: MGM) (“MGM Resorts”) today announced that Robert Baldwin, Chief Customer Development Officer of MGM Resorts and CEO and President of CityCenter, will be leaving his positions at both companies later this year. Few have played a more central role in the growth and transformation of the gaming industry than Bobby, and his contributions over more than three decades are immeasurable.

MGM Resorts thanks Bobby for all he has done for the company and all he has meant to this industry and wishes him the best for the future.

Such a brief and generic departure announcement fairly begs for further explanation, and Vital Vegas fanned the flames with a follow-up Tweet:

In a third Tweet regarding Baldwin, Vital Vegas simply responded “Yes” to an online affiliate site’s question and feature as to whether Baldwin was indeed being forced from his prominent roles with the company, and yet another rumor is that the high-stakes “Bobby’s Room” parlor in the rear of the Bellagio’s poker room will quickly be renamed to something else. That room was named after Baldwin, though in recent years Baldwin took his occasional nosebleed-games action over to the Aria.

It’s a curious end for Baldwin’s unusual power run on the corporate side of the Vegas gambling world, which stretched all the way back to 1982, when he was hired by the Golden Nugget as a consultant. (Rumors also suggest he might quickly resurface at DraftKings.) Two years later he was that downtown Las Vegas casino’s president, kicking off a run of over three decades as one of Nevada’s most prominent casino executives. And, unlike most of his industry contemporaries, he did it while still continuing the “professional gambler” thing himself. Baldwin owns four WSOP bracelets, though in later years he’s been more frequently seen in those high-stakes cash games; his rare tourney appearances have been in super high-roller events, a hint to the personal fortune Baldwin has likely amassed over the years.

Yet, there have always been hints and suggestions regarding off-the-narrow Bobby Baldwin behavior. Vital Vegas’s social-media Tweets are littered with accusations that Baldwin has been something of a Steve Wynn-style womanizer, rumors that this site has no information regarding. More salient, perhaps, are ongoing questions about his gambling and related activities. It’s worth noting that when the 2017 flap between Leon Tsoukernik and “Aussie Matt” Kirk went both public and into the Nevada court system, those offhand loans between the two took place at the table, in the Aria’s poker room.

Questions were raised at the time about whether the Aria had committed a gaming violation by allowing such loans to be mde at the table, since they would have necessarily included the shifting of stacks of chips from one player to another… which allegedly happened several times in more than one game. One Vegas casino exec smiled at me that summer and referred to it as a “Bobby Baldwin Special,” a hint that Baldwin’s love of and accommodation for the gamble might have led to some casino rules-bending from time to time.

It’s also just striking to look back at his old association with another larger-than-life Vegas figure, Archie Karas. Karas, who went on the famed (and now suspect) $30 million “The Run” at Las Vegas’s craps tables, also told stories about his toting around many tens of thousands of dollars in the trunk of his car to gamble at pool against a billiards champion who also liked to gamble it up.

Yes, that billiards champ was almost certainly Baldwin, as I’ve been told by a couple of people with direct knowledge, though you won’t find Baldwin mentioned by name in Archie’s tales. What a striking dichotomy the whole thing is, though, decades after the fact. Karas went on to get caught cheating at cards in numerous California and Nevada casinos and is now one of the most famous residents of Nevada’s infamous black book of banned gamblers. And Baldwin left those pool-hustler games to climb to the very top of the Vegas casino world.

Strange stories indeed.

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  1. Patrick Francis

    What a great great poker player and a heart to the Mirage and Bellagio as their top Las Vegas executive and innovative director who along with Mr. Steve Wynn reorganized ideas and brick & mortar in the building of a then 1980’s dormant Vegas strip. He was nice enough to write to me twice on my contact. Honored. Whoa!

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