Regulators find nothing redeemable in Riviera's Chippy Chips:

Jenna Jameson......Nikki Tyler....Heather Hunter

Jenna Jameson Promo Chip

Chips ahoy!

Talk about a way to spice up an otherwise mundane $5 blackjack game. Casino executives at the Riviera must have thought they were on to something, well, busty when they decided to mint special chips to honor the planned appearances of adult film stars Nikki Tyler, Jenna Jameson and Heather Hunter. The three sexual acrobats were scheduled to star in the Riviera's X-rated "Crazy Girls Fantasy Revue" during the Comdex convention this week, but they have since been replaced.

By reputation, Comdex attendees are an especially randy bunch of computer freaks, and their annual migration generates little cash in the casino but millions for topless cabarets and nudie shows at local resorts. The mass of mouse-clickers converges on the skin joints like an army of foreign legionnaires crawling across the Sahara for the last sip of Sparkletts.

In a never-ending effort to give the Comdexicans what they want, the Riviera in recent years has produced soft-core porn shows starring the naughtiest slices of cheesecake in the raunch racket. But the marketing mavens at the Riviera might have gone too far this time. It appears the state Gaming Control Board thinks so, too.

After receiving word from a local church group that the casino had minted chips honoring the chipees, Control Board Chief of Enforcement Keith Copher called a Riviera executive in an attempt to get to the bottom of the issue. Casino companies commonly request to have special commemorative chips printed of employees and celebrities. For example, the Four Queens recently minted chips featuring Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman. Fully clothed, thank goodness.

Sure enough. Tyler, Jameson and Hunter were featured prominently -- but not pornographically -- on $5 Riviera chips. (As an aside, if you were a porn star, would you be flattered to have your face featured on a measly $5 chip? Makes you wonder what a girl has to do to get on the $100. But I digress.) Copher gently reminded management that such chips might mortify the image-conscious casino industry, which recently has been accused of catering to children by promoting cartoon-themed slots such as Betty Boop and South Park. Apparently it's hard even for American Gaming Association President Frank Fahrenkopf to keep a straight face as he promotes the wonders of legalized gaming while fondling X-rated casino chips and playing Three Stooges slot machines.

Imperial Palace owner Ralph Engelstad was fined a fortune for embarrassing the industry after he admitted having a Hitler-themed birthday party. Lucky for Engelstad he didn't mint a der Fuhrer five-spot. Fortunately for the Riviera, officials pulled the chips out of circulation before causing a national incident that would embarrass the gambling world and force millions of blackjack-playing mothers to avert their children's eyes. "At first we figured they were just part of their staff," Gaming Control's Copher says. "We were not aware that they were porno girls. When we were told they weren't employees, we contacted the Riviera.

There have been quite often pictures of showgirls and employees printed on chips. We thought this was something similar to that. "We believe this is not the sort of thing that's good for gaming's image." Keith Copher gets my vote in the King-of-Deadpan category. He made it through the entire interview without once snickering. Riviera executives, meanwhile, declined to return phone calls for a response. Perhaps they didn't know the trio of tarts were porno girls, either. Yeah, right. Riviera publicity man John Neeland reminded me about the popularity of the babe revue during Comdex time. It not only sells out, but each year the resort loses all its posters advertising the Fantasy Revue.

This year, hotel officials have taken to securing the posters into the display stanchions with special screws. "Now if they really want the poster they have to steal the 20-pound sign," Neeland says. I suspect the X-rated casino chips were meant to serve as a safe, affordable alternative to poster theft. Surely it would have been a dandy collector's item capable of burning a hole in anyone's pocket protector. I'll let others determine how minting a casino chip is bad for gaming's image while the X-rated show is appropriate entertainment. But contrary to popular belief, you may not bet your bottom dollar this week at the Riviera.

John L. Smith's column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Reach him at 383-0295 or Smith@lvrj.com.


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