Nevada regulators ease rules on posh salons at casinos

Oct 28, 2008 4:09 PM

Staff & Wire Reports |

Eased rules sought by Nevada casinos who want more high-end action in private gambling salons, where hundreds of thousands of dollars can change hands on a roll of the dice or a turn of the cards, were recently endorsed by state regulators.

The rule changes were endorsed by the state Gaming Control Board earlier this month and are expected to be up for final approval by the board’s parent Gaming Commission in November.

The revisions were sought by industry leaders who said some of the tight restrictions on the salons didn’t make good business sense.

"What this does is to relax the regulation without relaxing the appropriate regulatory oversight," Control Board member Randy Sayre said following the board’s vote for the eased standards. "Nevada casinos must be able to compete in a world market" for the high-rollers.

The salons were authorized by the 2001 Legislature, which changed a long-standing law that required all gambling to be open to the public. Only a few resorts on the Las Vegas Strip operate the private salons for high-rollers, known in the trade as "whales."

Under the proposed changes, a privacy-seeking gambler who shows up with $300,000 in cash could gamble in one of the salons. That’s down from $500,000 in cash. There’s no change in a requirement for a combination of $500,000 in cash and credit, or credit alone.

Also, resorts could set their own minimum bets on live games. Currently, the minimum live-game bet in one of the salons is $500. The minimum for a $500 for each pull on a slot machine would remain unchanged.

"It’s probably best to allow some discretion there now that we’ve seen some of the betting patterns in the rooms," Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander said.

Neilander said some heavy-betting players might want to switch from bets of tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars a hand to very small sums to run through all the cards in a deck, in hopes of improving their luck with a reshuffled deck.

The regulation change would allow the mixed betting pattern – and keep the high-roller at the table. Also, guests of such gamblers, who might not be playing at the same level, could make lower-stakes wagers. They also could keep gambling in the salons for up to six hours if the high-roller took a break from the action.

Under the proposed rules, casinos would have to notify the Control Board when a private salon is in use so that regulators can monitor the gambling by high-tech surveillance cameras.

The private salons were designed to expand on inducements used by Nevada casinos for years, such as lavish suites, free entertainment and meals, shopping sprees and access to private jets.

"I think the original name really doesn’t reflect the marketing that’s taking place on part of the operators of those gaming salons," Sayre said of what, for now, are deemed international gaming salons. "You don’t have to be an internationally based player in order to qualify for those salons.

"These are private gaming salons," Sayre continued. "It was originally advanced at the legislative level to capture international players of great substance [the so-called whales]. As we’ve watched the salons over the approximate six years that they’ve been in place, these high-end players are coming from outside the U.S. as well as inside the U.S. so that particular portion was really just a clean-up in terms of how we refer to these salons."

Sayre added that allowing a high roller’s family and entourage makes sense in the gaming salons, of which there are just four throughout the state of Nevada.

"What has happened historically is that you’ll get a high-end player coming in and with that high-end player you’ll get an entourage of individuals," he said. "Now those individuals are secondary patrons – we’ve now changed that to refer to them as ‘guests.’

"Now, we and the property know who those guests are and they accompany the primary patron – the one who qualifies for the room."

Sayre added that accommodating the high-stakes guest’s friends and family – for up to six hours while the rated guest was out doing other activities – allows the casino to "continue to accept wagers" and "more fairly positions the property so that they don’t have to potentially offend."

Although these gaming salons are still a somewhat relatively new thing, Sayre thinks they are starting to make some headway.

"I think that they are clearly getting their legs in terms of being an amenity that is beneficial that we continue to provide," he said.