By the time he got his answer -- eleven months later in a Missouri Gaming Commission hearing -- Grace had received a $10,000 fine for cussing. The 65-year-old president of W.M. Grace Cos., a conglomerate of development, hotel and casino operations, stood accused of discrediting the commission in a profanity-laced lecture of his 25-year-old security guard (who coincidentally had already resigned and was working his last day).
Cursing at a back-talking employee, ruled commission hearing officer Michael Yost, was not the sort of activity the governing body of Missouri's multimillion-dollar gambling industry should be associated with.
Last month, the Missouri Court of Appeals partially reversed that decision. Judge Patricia Breckenridge found that Grace's swearing did not constitute misconduct, but she also ruled that he still could face a smaller fine for consuming wine the same evening. Now the case will go back to the Missouri Gaming Commission, which will only add more paper to the incident's four-and-a-half-inch-thick file.
Just before midnight on May 29, 1999, security guard Dan Miller reported to the customer entrance of the floating building. At that time, state rules said gamblers could enter the so-called riverboats only during "boarding times" every two hours, so a new group of customers waited for guards to usher them in.
Miller and two colleagues waited for approval over their radios. But a miscommunication led one of the guards to open a gangplank to gamblers prematurely. Miller noticed the casino's official clock had not reached midnight and told customers they needed to wait a little longer.
Grace, who had been having a business dinner at a steak house near the casino's entrance, thought his guard had acted rudely. He also noticed that, by his watch, it was already midnight. "What's going on?" he asked.
Miller approached Grace, and the pair began to argue about Miller's treatment of the customers. The owner was adamant that guards should be as polite as possible to customers. "[If I were a customer] I would tell you to stick it up your ass and leave," Grace said.
Miller and fellow security guard Shawn Griffin argued that they were just trying not to violate gaming rules and precipitate a state fine. That's not the point, Grace shot back. Exactly how he phrased that, however, would later be the center of controversy.
"Don't worry about the fucking fines," Grace reportedly said. "Worry about getting people on board."
A half hour later, Miller and Griffin wrote incident reports that would be used to cite Grace with violations of commission rules. For confronting Miller in a public area, using profanity and disrespecting the commission ("Don't worry about the fucking fines"), Grace was charged with misconduct. Reports that he was also drunk led to an additional charge. Although that accusation was never substantiated, it did force Grace to acknowledge that he'd had a glass of wine with dinner and that he was unaware of a commission rule forbidding him from doing so.
According to Jim Deutsch, Grace's lawyer, the now-dismissed charge of misconduct could have affected his client's business in states such as Kansas, where Grace owns the Woodlands horse and dog track. "When you have a state like Missouri who makes a claim of misconduct, there could be serious ramifications by that finding and having that word associated with him," Deutsch says. "He had to fight it."
As for the remaining charge of alcohol consumption, the MGC staff has not yet decided how to proceed. But commission spokesperson Harold Bailey says the case will almost certainly go on. "I can't see any reason," he says, "thinking off the top of my head, why it would be dismissed or dropped."