Battle brewing over slot debit cards

Apr 22, 2003 7:27 AM

Hold your bets. The Nevada Gaming Commission is going to take a long, hard look at the use of debit cards in slot machines.

As reported in GamingToday last week, regulators are considering rules that will permit installation of debit card receptors in slots. But the potentially controversial proposal, part of a larger set of guidelines covering upgrades in slot tracking systems, has been decoupled and delayed.

"This will be a separate discussion," Gaming Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander told commissioners.

Even before the first public hearing on the subject, regulators expressed divergent opinions on the use of debit cards in casino games.

Control Board member Scott Scherer has said he favors a $1,000-per-day limit per card, which closely mirrors bank policies on ATM usage.

But Commission member Augie Gurrola says he doesn’t like the $1,000 cap.

"We don’t want to dictate amounts to a player," he said.

Gaming staff also say it may be technically difficult to enforce any arbitrary limits — a debate that will ultimately involve input from the banking industry and problem-gambling groups.

In any event, the stakes are huge: two-thirds of Nevada’s gaming revenue comes from slots. And the industry views debit cards as a way to accelerate and expand machine play.

The commission set a public hearing May 22 to review the slot metering rules, but did not schedule a date for discussing debit card policies. So keep those coins and tickets handy for now.

In other action, the commission:

”¡ Refused to revoke the casino entertainment tax paid by the Rio. Attorney David Arraj objected to the state collecting the tax on the resort’s "Tony and Tina’s Wedding" show. The Rio sought an exception to the levy, saying the performance is "interactive" and does not use a stage.

Commissioners weren’t convinced; they voted 4-1 to reject the appeal, with Gurrola casting the lone dissenting vote.

”¡ Licensed the Holder Group to own and operate the new Charlie Holder’s Casino Bar on Boulder Highway. Hal Holder said he is building a 55-foot-high reader board and upgrading the casino and food offerings.

"Our group isn’t on the radar screen [of the industry] but we’re known by our customers," said Holder, who added that his six casinos statewide "return a lot of money to the community."

”¡ Delayed action on a license request for the Old Reno Casino. The Atlantis hotel-casino filed a lawsuit over the agreement, which allows Bill Paganetti of the Peppermill to transfer the unrestricted license to another location in Reno.

Paganetti, who is obtaining the Old Reno’s license from in-law Harvey Whittemore, has pledged to erect a $50 million to $60 million casino at an unspecified site.

”¡ Approved a delayed stock offering for WMS Gaming. Commission Chairman Peter Bernhard reiterated board concerns about the concentration of ownership by media mogul Summer Redstone. Redstone currently holds 26 percent and "his share will not exceed 30 percent," Bernhard declared.

”¡ Set dates for Nevada’s annual mule races. They’ll be running May 31-June 1 in Winnemucca and Aug. 23-24, 29-31 and Sept. 1 in Elko. Wagering is permitted at both venues.