Gaming Control Board chief cruising into new job at Venetian

Gaming Control Board Chief of Enforcement Jerry Markling says he’s looking forward to the fresh challenge of his new job as Director of Investigations at The Venetian.

That’s understandable. Just look at the place. It’s among the nicest resorts on the Strip.

And these are extremely difficult times for Nevada casino regulators. With budget cuts, complex investigations and changing technology, the control board has rarely been this stressed.

As head of enforcement for nearly a decade, Markling has maintained his credibility during big changes in the gaming industry.

While I’ve heard no one doubt Markling will handle his new duties with anything less than complete competence, some gaming industry observers have already started wondering aloud why the control board veteran isn’t missing a beat in his upcoming transition into the private sector.

What happened to the state’s much-touted one-year cooling off period?

Had Markling, a fellow well-acquainted with the importance of laws and regulations, violated a basic ethics rule?

Although Markling is the chief of enforcement for the control board and is accepting a director’s position at The Venetian, he doesn’t have to worry about violating the cooling-off period. Because of his 22.5-year tenure at the control board, Markling’s length of service predates the changes in the state ethics law.

In other words, he’s grandfathered in.

And all this time I thought ethics was ethics. I didn’t know a thing like ethics could be grandfathered in.

So Markling can blow right through the state’s little stop sign and roll at full speed to front door of The Venetian, the resort owned by Las Vegas Sands.

At the Nevada Commission on Ethics, Executive Director Caren Cafferata-Jenkins shrugs a little when the issue of the exception to the rule is raised.

She clearly knows it creates a double standard: a lower bar for the old-timers, a higher one for the newcomers.

She reminds me that advocates of improved ethics laws in Nevada often run into barriers at the Legislature. In order to implement the cooling-off period, the break for current employees was made.

“Imposing a new limitation on existing employees was distasteful to the Legislature, so an exception was carved out,” she said.

It’s complete speculation, but I would bet she rolled her eyes when she said that.

Years after the law was passed, not many of those veteran employees remain on the state payroll. Markling is one.

He said he didn’t ask for an official opinion from the ethics commission, but he did check with a lawyer in the attorney general’s office and also discussed potential conflict issues with Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett.

Markling will be joining The Venetian at a time when Las Vegas Sands is the target of multiple federal law enforcement investigations over possible violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in association with its highly successful casino ventures in Macau.

And a federal grand jury in Los Angeles has been probing Sands executives for possible money-laundering violations.

If Markling is leaving one stressful duty for another, he doesn’t seem to be bothered by it.

He made it clear he’ll be focused on The Venetian and will have nothing to do with those various investigations.

“There’s really not a concern,” he said. “The types of investigations I’ll be doing there are more to do with due diligence, slip and falls, risk management types of investigation.”

Markling began his career 43 years ago as a cop in Provo, Utah. After two decades there, he accepted a position at the control board. He has been the chief of enforcement for the past eight years.

“It’s been a very challenging and interesting job that I’ve really enjoyed,” Markling said. “I’ll miss it. I’ll miss working with some of the federal agencies and Metro, but there comes a time in every life when I think you have to move on.”

And thanks to an exception in the state’s ethics law, Markling won’t miss a beat.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at jsmith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295.