The Nevada State Gaming Control Board rides herd on the state’s casinos, and board member Bobby Siller seems perfectly cast as the cowboy with the responsibility of keeping the herd together.
Siller is no stranger to responsibility. An FBI man for 25 years, he was awarded many honors along the way, including one granted by President Bill Clinton that designated him as a meritorious executive in the FBI’s senior executive service. In short, it meant he was outstanding even when he was surrounded by the agency’s best people.
Siller says that beyond his family, the two things he is most proud of is having served in the FBI, which he calls the best law enforcement agency in the world, and to be selected by the governor for the best gaming regulatory board in the world in 1999.
The Air Force veteran, DePaul University graduate, and married father of two was reappointed to a four-year term by Gov. Kenny Guinn in 2003.
Nevada’s Gaming Control Board does background checks on license applicants and recommends to the Gaming Commission whether they should be approved. It also monitors members of the gaming industry for improprieties, and is responsible for the administration and enforcement of all gaming statutes and regulations.
Even at 60, Siller, who builds and flies big model airplanes, is a trim and energetic figure who still has a bounce in his step and is spry enough to play racquetball as a way of relaxing. Racquetball requires a great deal of physical flexibility and Siller says his job requires him to be mentally flexible. "You have to be constantly open minded and flexible to keep our industry competitive," he says.
The flexibility is required because gaming "is affected by changing technology (like) Internet (gambling), ticket-in, ticket out and pari-mutuel racing. It’s all new ground," he said. "There is a continuing effort (by the board) to bring Nevada statutes (up to date) in the modern, changing technology world."
Siller says the board has spent a lot of time examining the pros and cons of Internet gambling and believes "caution is to be commended."
"I have not seen the technology that would allow us to protect other states from Internet gaming" if they don’t want their residents exposed to it," Siller says, adding that "the Department of Justice says Internet gaming is illegal" and it "probably won’t be legalized" for some time.
In contrast, Siller says, "We are close to legalizing off-track betting on pari-mutuel horse racing by phoning in bets." Currently, only sports bets can be placed over the phone in Nevada.
He adds the board is three or four months away from recommending that the Legislature allow off-track betting by phone.
The board will probably be at full strength when it makes that important recommendation. Board member Scott Scherer did not seek reappointment and Gov. Guinn has not yet replaced him (see related story on page 1).
Siller said the board will not be recommending that the commission close down the private gaming salons that it succeeded in getting the Legislature to approve two years ago and which have not generated the number of high rollers that they were expected to draw. "I don’t know as a board member that I would want to make that decision based on market conditions," he says.
Representatives of Caesars Palace and Mandalay Bay were questioned by unhappy gaming regulators in November.
"I did not hear any explanation on their part that would mitigate their poor performance," Siller says. "I was disappointed that they weren’t aggressive in marketing to individuals who had been identified" as likely high rollers, such as big name athletes and actors who live California, he said.
Siller said the opening of Wynn Las Vegas in April and new private salons at The Venetian should stimulate competition for high-stakes players.
Salons aside, Siller sees a bright future for gaming, especially in southern Nevada. "The Reno area has to redefine itself in the face of the challenge of Indian gaming," he says. "The history of Las Vegas is that it is continually evolving and changing (according) to market conditions. I see a bright future as long as we continue to be an entertainment center, the total package. Harrah’s seems to do an exceptional job of cross marketing. We have the ability here to be flexible and adapt to marketing conditions. We are forever changing."