New regs draw (mostly) positive comments

Nov 1, 2005 3:30 AM

The Nevada Gaming Control Board held a workshop last week to allow public comments on a variety of new regulations that are currently being considered by regulators.

Another workshop will be held in Carson City in the next few weeks and, barring any dramatic changes, all of the dozen or so proposed regulations should be approved in the coming months.

Most of the public comments were in support of the regulations, especially those that could expand the scope of gaming in Nevada.

One amendment that appears well-received is the proposal to expand pari-mutuel horse wagering outside the state of Nevada.

The Nevada legislature approved interstate horse betting two years ago and several race directors spoke in support of the proposal.

One Nevada bookmaker estimated interstate account wagering could generate $200 million to $300 million in additional revenue for Nevada casinos.

The new service would also help capture a large segment of the pari-mutuel market that was lost to offshore betting shops and satellite wagering firms like TVG and youbet.com.

Although Nevada bet shops wouldn’t be able to offer rebates like they did several years ago, they could extend hotel services and offer comps and other incentives to interstate bettors, the bookmaker said.

Once interstate account wagering is approved, casinos could implement the service through a variety of ways. Some race books will take calls directly from the out-of-state bettor, while others, especially those that are part of a group such as Harrah’s or MGM Mirage, will likely set up "call centers" to handle interstate bets for a number of properties. Another proposal that piqued the public’s interest is a proposal to allow wireless gaming devices in Nevada casinos.

Wireless gaming was authorized by the state legislature last year with the intent of allowing Nevada casino patrons to gamble in public areas — bars, restaurants, poolside, etc. — via portable or handheld devices such as personal digital assistants (PDA’s).

The wireless devices are expected to allow casino customers to play the slots, roulette, poker and blackjack from locations other than the actual casino, but still within the property’s public areas.

Of most concern to regulators was the inherent security of such devices — could they be operated by unauthorized players or could their transmissions be interrupted, thus disrupting the system.

A manufacturer of a wireless gaming system provided regulators with information and assurances that its system is safe, secure and battle-tested.

Mike Prasad, the chief technology officer for Louisiana-based Diamond I Technologies, suggested "biometric technologies" as a means to ensure the secure operation of mobile/wireless communication devices, as well as satisfy important security requirements.

Biometric technologies include thumbprint identification and retinal scan systems as possible solutions to the problem of electronically identifying an individual.

"The Gaming Commission has been very receptive and the process is progressing very well," Prasad said. "We are proud to be a part of this important process that will set the stage for the next revolution in Nevada gaming."

Diamond I manufactures the WiFi Casino Gaming System featuring "wireless fidelity," an industry standard for wireless devices that meets FCC standards, and will allow patrons to play slots, video poker and other electronic games via a PDA issued by the casino.

Diamond I is currently seeking a Nevada license to market the system, as well as a Las Vegas hotel/casino to serve as a demonstration facility for its system.

Last month, Diamond I announced it had signed a letter of intent to work with the Palms to supply its PDA-based gambling system.

Finally, a proposal to allow businesses that offer gambling to charge an admission fee drew several protests and exclamations of bewilderment.

Nevada has long mandated that gambling be open and available to the public, but the proposed regulation — the result of Senate Bill 444 passed earlier this year — would seem to weaken that policy.

"We will probably not see the end of this," said board member Bobby Siller. "This could be a major issue for the state."

Most of the support for the regulation has come from nightclubs and casinos that have nightclubs in which gambling, usually gaming machines, is located.

The nightclub faction successfully convinced legislators that gaming in nightclubs that charge admission would be good for business.

Supporters add that the notion of open and public gaming, believed to prevent skimming while reinforcing the public’s trust in gaming, may no longer be relevant.

Instead, the economic demands of operating a mixed-use facility like a nightclub now supercede outdated policies.

Another regulation that was discussed was a proposal that would prevent casinos from offering payday loans or contracting with companies that offer them.