The Nevada Gaming Control Board (GCB) last week said a gaming operator should have an English-speaking employee on duty whenever slot machines are available to the public.
An English-speaking employee would be necessary to communicate with patrons who had a question or dispute, or with regulators who visit licensees from time to time.
The issue arose over the licensing of a small Reno bar to operate five video poker machines installed by a slot-route company, Dynasty Games.
The owner of the bar, Rodolfo Martinez, speaks limited English and required a translator at the board meeting.
GCB staff recommended approving the license with the stipulation that Dynasty — which would be responsible for technical issues with the machines — ensure an English-speaking technician could visit the bar within 15 minutes.
But Dynasty, which is located in Sparks, could not guarantee that a technician could be available within 15 minutes.
Thus, the board suggested the condition requiring an English-speaking employee on the premises.
The Nevada Gaming Commission will have the final word on the condition later this month.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is hoping the commission rejects it.
"It places an undo burden on a group of people who are otherwise running a perfectly honorable, honest business," said Gary Peck, executive director of the ACLU of Nevada. "As a policy matter, I would hope the commission would reject the board’s recommendation and allow this guy to operate his business without having to deal with this sort of burden."
Peck added that even an English-speaking employee may not be able to answer a patron’s question about a payout or slot machine malfunction.
"I’m not buying that the instant there is a problem you need someone on the scene that speaks English," Peck said.
An official with a Hispanic advocacy group said the board action seemed reasonable, as long as it applied to the reverse scenario.
"I would hope that if someone is catering to the Hispanic population, they would have a Spanish-speaking person there, too," said Jesse Gutierrez, executive director of Nevada Hispanic Services.