Pondering how to deal with ‘weed’
January 16, 2018 3:11 AM
by Phil Hevener
Where does the Nevada gaming business go from here? There’s a lot of energy and high-powered imaginations being invested in the search for answers.
The issue has been on my mind for months, so I tossed the question at former Gaming Control Board chairman Michael Rumbolz expecting him to turn it into a joke. His response was “that’s a good question” and when I find out please let him know. Rumbolz was a key player in the deal that saw the state work out an agreement during the 1980s that kept the feds from directly tracking the action at gaming tables.
Reg. 6-A as the agreement was known allowed Nevada casinos to deal with the Gaming Board. The agreement called for casinos to gather the necessary information about players and then forward the facts to the feds on transaction reports. I’ve always wondered to what extent those reports were read by anyone.
“What Treasury wanted,” Rumbolz explained “was to track the so-called mattress money that was channeled into the real economy through casinos.” But times have changed and instead of tracking unreported cash, the emphasis is now on drugs, specifically marijuana, which is an illegal Schedule One drug, the same as heroin.
How did this occur? How much conversation was there in 1970 about what should or shouldn’t be a Schedule One substance? Like a field of summer weeds marijuana has been “winning friends and influencing decision makers” the last 10-20 years. The challenge for resort marketing forces throughout Nevada is how to deal with the fact that better than 60 percent of the adults responding to surveys about the “evils of weed” are people who enjoy it particularly in an “adult Disneyland” like, well... Las Vegas.
Strategists might be forced to rethink their attitudes about conventions that might become a means for talking about marijuana. Gaming licensees could be in some very hot water if they are perceived as helping advance “conspiracies” dealing with Schedule One drugs.
For a lot of reasons the situation is a hot one. Some casino bosses have responded to the issue by not being available to field the questions from reporters and people with ideas about how to create some customer attraction.
One obvious answer is Las Vegas must continue to be as entertaining as possible, whatever that may mean. The architects of future fun and games do not want to miss any of the possibilities. Neither do they want to trip over unseen problems.
The importance of being prepared for that may include any number of surprises and has planners looking at the need for careful planning, which probably explains the three meetings of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s Gaming Advisory Committee since late last year.
What should the state do to keep its number one industry on the cutting edge of a fast-moving evolution? Slumbering lawmakers who have seen no need to fix the confusion about marijuana and its Schedule One classification have seen no need to address the issue since 1970. And Jeff Sessions that conservative Alabama Republican who gets to call the shots in the Capitol on the marijuana issue (well, he is the attorney general) is busy sending signals that say he is no friend of marijuana.
“Anything to do with drugs and gambling has always been a low-hanging fruit for a lot of prosecutors,” said Las Vegas lawyer Greg Gemignani who is familiar with the search for justice amid the games various interests have been known to play.
Then how about someone picking up the phone and calling the Justice Department, maybe even Sessions himself?
Gemignani laughed, “Now that’s a real sleeping dog, a big sleeping dog.”
The focus of planning by casino officials is how to plan for a future in the fun and games business without offending Sessions. We may learn more at the expected February meeting of Sandoval’s advisory committee.
I wonder if the last information about marijuana Sessions acquired was in that silly 1936 movie “Reefer Madness”?
So much of what people think they know about the casino business has come from Hollywood.