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Casinos cope with conflicting cash rules

Mar 11, 2003 5:59 AM

  New federal cash-handling rules could be a pain in the wallet for Nevada gaming companies.

But state officials say the new regulations in the USA PATRIOT Act won’t necessarily bring more security.

"We have a number of prohibitions on cash transactions that aren’t covered in the federal rules,’’ said Gaming Control Board member Scott Scherer.

Today, for example, a Nevada gambler who places a $3,000 deposit in a casino cage must, by law, receive the exact same bills when cashing out. Though an effective tool in combating money laundering, no such requirement exists in the federal code.

The feds are also looser on the reporting threshold for so-called "suspicious activity." If Nevada adopts the new rules, that threshold would go from $3,000 up to $5,000 or more.

While the federal regulations would open things up — allowing slots to accept more than $3,000 per pull, for instance — the rules come at a price, state regulators say.

Because the annual revenue threshold would be dropped from $10 million to just $1 million, 141 more Nevada gaming companies would be required to fill out lengthy accounting reports. That wider corporate net will even catch some grocery store chains.

"The real onus will be on smaller operators,’’ said one gaming official. "There will need to be a lot more training and paperwork.’’

Large gaming conglomerates that do business in several jurisdictions appear less stressed. Some welcome the uniformity of rules that would apply across state lines. And, as such, Nevada’s unique cash-handling regulations may go by the boards.

That could be a welcome development for transnational operators such as MGM Mirage. The state recently hit the gaming giant with a $25,000 fine for conducting a cash transaction that exceeded Nevada’s $3,000 legal limit.

Washington has set a March 25 deadline for states to submit their rules. Gaming Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander says gaming licensees, including slot route operators, "should be prepared to comply’’ because it doesn’t appear that any state exemptions will be forthcoming.

In the worst-case scenario, Scherer speculated that gamers might, in the short term, find themselves in the nightmarish position of having to adhere to rules from both the state and federal governments.

"We’ve been attempting to get information from the industry. But, so far, there hasn’t been a great deal of talk. There appears to be a split,’’ he said.

Officials have not compiled estimates on the cost of compliance. But that information may be forthcoming when the Nevada Gaming Commission conducts a public hearing on the issue on March 20 in Las Vegas.