Whale salons downsizing?

Dec 25, 2001 1:57 AM

Winning on lower bets, Nevada casinos are poised to score again on the financial entrance requirements at the state’s new “high-roller” salons.

Knowledgeable sources report that the Gaming Commission is ready to reverse the Control Board and lower the cash-and-credit eligibility for private play. While the board unanimously recommended that players front $1 million, industry lobbyists are pushing for $500,000.

And commissioners appear to be siding with the casinos. “The industry will prevail on this one,’’ one source told GamingToday.

The board last month slashed the minimum bet requirement from a proposed $20,000 to just $500 in response to testimony from megaresorts and the Nevada Resort Association. NRA legal counsel Jack Godfrey and others warned that potential players would be turned off by limits that are set too high.

Megaresorts now want to chip away at the entrance requirements for so-called “secondary players” who accompany high rollers into the international salons. Commissioner Art Marshall seconded that concern, saying that identification standards “may make this so onerous that it will not work for casinos.’’

Though the commissioners praised board member Bobby Siller and staff for hammering out the proposed rules, the tone at last week’s commission meeting favored the casino industry’s position that entrance rules should be as flexible as possible.

Earlier this year, the Control Board had considered a $3 million minimum requirement, citing a survey that found high-limit players along the Strip averaged that amount. The industry countered with a proposal of just $50,000, then raised that to $500,000.

The Legislature established $500 as the minimum slot bet, but set no rules on table games or admission. Industry leaders say a soft tourist market and global competition necessitate lower minimums.

Commissioners are scheduled to vote on a final version of the rules Jan. 24.