Policy Committee? Why bother?

Policy Committee? Why bother?

November 28, 2017 3:00 AM


Years ago when Nevada was the gaming expert among the 50 states, it was at one time the gold standard in gaming regulation, and when other jurisdictions adopted gaming, often they essentially Xeroxed Nevada gaming laws and regulations, substituting their respective jurisdiction’s name for Nevada.

Nevada’s gaming laws and regulations in their original form were designed to keep organized crime out and give comfort to the federal government that Nevada could take care of its own house while protecting a valuable tax source. Through those laws and regulations, powers were conferred onto the Nevada Gaming Commission to decide who could hold a gaming license, how gaming was to be conducted and of course to collect gaming tax revenue.

The NGC’s function is to set policy and provide oversight to the Nevada Gaming Control Board while the Control Board’s function is to police and regulate the gaming industry on a day-to-day basis under the policies and regulations as set by the Commission. Simple structure and wise in its simplicity.

However, as with any governmental body, over the run of time things morph and evolve; and from this writer’s perspective with tweaks here and there under the causes of simplification and expediency, the Nevada Gaming Control Board has assumed more policy setting dominance.

A key but not isolated example of this is the topic of legalized marijuana. After medical marijuana was approved by the citizens of Nevada, the NGCB – and not the NGC until after the NGCB had already declared itself – basically made it clear that any Nevada gaming licensee that became involved in the marijuana business would see their license at risk.

Purporting concerns the federal government still holds marijuana illegal, the supposedly subordinate board set their policy above the wishes of citizens of the state. At the time it was an interesting question. When a new law conflicts with the standing of a prior regulation, which one should take dominant position, particularly when the subject laws and regulations are completely under the control and rights of the state without fear of federal intervention?

Not surprisingly the Board and Commission’s policy regarding marijuana became topical not only from the legal positions but that there is serious money in the legal marijuana business and various entrepreneurs are interested in tapping into those dollars either directly or indirectly.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, to his credit, decided to reconvene the Gaming Policy Committee and address various economic opportunities that may intersect between the gaming and legal marijuana industries. While many in both industries are hopeful the NGCB will be basically told to back off and allow the free-market to run its course, everyone should keep in mind the Gaming Policy Committee is a toothless tiger; they can only advise and suggest, they cannot mandate or direct either the Commission or the Board to do anything.

As such it is with intellectual interest that when the Gaming Policy Committee meets again on Nov. 29 it will be worth watching and not really much else. The agenda calls for comments from the governor, and the chairmen of the Nevada Gaming Control Board and Commission. The agenda continues with an informational presentation about: 1. Federal Law and Marijuana; 2. Financial Relationships between Gaming Licensees and the Marijuana Industry; 3. Marijuana Business Convention: Propriety of Business Events that do not involve the Sale of Consumption of Marijuana.

These discussions will be informative and hopefully the NGCB chairman will indicate where the line is that the Board will take exception to the gaming industry doing business with various aspects of the marijuana industry, though not likely.

Missing from the agenda are discussions around real world issues such as: What to do when customers light up in their rooms or in their cars while at a gaming facility or on the gaming floor; What to do when a group of patrons use odorless marijuana vape systems; Should the gaming industry be required to acquire marijuana detecting systems for guest and public areas of their gaming resorts; Are known marijuana entrepreneurs welcome as gaming or retail customers of a property; etc.

Bill Young from Station Casinos is slated to speak, as his background includes heading vice/narcotics while in the Metropolitan Police Department. He will likely be the most rounded and hopefully most listened to presenter of the day on these various issues.

I for one am not a fan of legalized marijuana or its use at a gaming resort. If I were still running a casino, the last thing I would want is a chilled out slow playing gambler on any of my games. Lots of real world operating questions are out there and it would be great if the Gaming Policy Committee could address them – presuming the Board and/or the Commission will listen.