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Board’s open seat sparks open speculation

A month has nearly passed since a seat on the Gaming Control Board became vacant.

Mark Clayton informed Gov. Jim Gibbons’ staff on Nov. 7 that he wouldn’t seek reappointment. His last board meeting is next week.

Gibbons hasn’t named a replacement, but he may be a bit preoccupied by the state’s budget crisis. That hasn’t stopped speculation.

The three-member panel is the state’s enforcement and investigative agency for gaming. The full-time position pays $125,122 annually.

“You usually hear a lot of talk,” said one gaming source. “But it’s been pretty quiet.”

In 2009, the control board will be busy. The panel will be asked to recommend a gaming license for the $1 billion M Resort. The $9.1 billion CityCenter will be up for licensing. If Wall Street is correct, the economic meltdown could mean several gaming companies could have potential financial restructuring propositions.

The agency may also be grappling with a 14 percent budget cut, leaving the office short-staffed.

So the question is, who would want the job?

Gibbons Chief of Staff Josh Hicks is reportedly interested. Hicks, a former deputy attorney general and the governor’s first general counsel, needs to find a replacement for his job who will be in charge of directing the governor’s agenda in the next session. He did not return a phone call last week.

One potential candidate is Greg Gale, the board’s chief auditor. He has been with the agency since 1979.

Another possibility is soon-to-be-ex-Republican State Sen. Bob Beers, an ardent fiscal conservative. Since losing re-election, Beers, a certified public accountant, has explored private sector opportunities. His name has surfaced for a potential spot on the Board of Regents.

Beers said he has not spoken with Gibbons about the gaming job. Still, he might give the seat some thought.

The seat’s previous two occupants brought industry experience and a regulatory background to the panel.

Clayton was the board’s corporate securities chief before holding general counsel positions with casino operators. Scott Scherer, whom Clayton replaced, was a deputy attorney general for gaming and a lawyer for IGT.

A certified public accountant could be named. Board Chairman Dennis Neilander is an attorney and an accountant hasn’t sat on the panel since 1993.

Clayton’s seat was the only position expiring this year. Adding to the intrigue is a suggestion that Gibbons could ask Neilander to move to a board member’s seat while the governor appoints a new chairman. The statute covering the appointment allows for that scenario.

Neilander and board member Randy Sayre live in Northern Nevada, fueling thoughts the appointment could come from Las Vegas.

Howard Stutz’s Inside Gaming column appears Sundays. E-mail him at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or call 702-477-3871.

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