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G2E talk only a prelude to Nevada leaders’ pot discussion

It’s going to be some party when Gov. Brian Sandoval gets together with state policymakers next month to begin talking about whether it’s possible for the gaming industry and the marijuana business to coexist in Nevada.

If Monday’s panel discussion on the highs and lows of marijuana legalization at an education session preceding the American Gaming Association’s three-day Global Gaming Expo convention and trade show at the Sands Expo and Convention Center was any indication, there might be more lows than highs for ever seeing a day when pot lounges or personal use in hotel rooms ever make their way to casinos.

G2E, the largest gathering of representatives of the gaming industry, formally opens Tuesday with an estimated 26,000 people gathering to see the latest in slot machines and casino technology and to debate issues of interest to industry executives.

Contentious issue

The use of marijuana medicinally or recreationally at gaming properties is one of the most contentious industry issues, with virtually no room for compromise.

The discussion in Nevada will divert to a new process next month when the Nevada Gaming Policy Committee, headed by Sandoval, meets to develop policies and potential regulations. Gaming Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett and Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Tony Alamo, who have advocated adhering to strict federal controlled substance policies on marijuana, have made it clear that they believe that in order to be consistent, there’s no room for marijuana on a resort campus.

But the Policy Committee, which will have its first meeting on the topic Nov. 29 in Las Vegas, also includes state Sen. Richard “Tick” Segerblom, one of the state’s leading advocates for recreational marijuana.

Trade shows

With growing sentiment to at least allow third parties to display paraphernalia at marijuana-related trade shows and meetings, there seems to be a growing sentiment to relax policies at casino properties. But is that a slippery slope toward allowing consumption at casinos, and would the mere presence of pot products be a violation of federal statutes?

Tuesday’s G2E might have been a taste of what’s to come.

Panelist Terry Johnson, a Gaming Control Board member and the author of most of the board’s industry notices on marijuana policies, explained how the debate grew after state lawmakers approved legislation at the direction of voters, who approved recreational use in 2016.

Panelist Flavio Quintana, director of the Colorado Department of Revenue’s gaming enforcement division, explained that his state’s policies are basically the same as Nevada’s, but the debate isn’t as widespread since commercial gaming is only legal in three historic mountain mining towns.

Quintana said there are other issues regulators must consider in the pot debate, including determining whether casino patrons are intoxicated by marijuana. Problem gambling guidelines adopted by most Gaming Association members discourage casinos from taking bets from people intoxicated by alcohol.

Edible issues

Panelists also said there are issues involving the use of hard-to-detect edible marijuana and how casino employers should treat employees who test positive for marijuana in their systems but show no signs of intoxication.

Johnson also said there is increased interest to introduce the use of marijuana in clubs within casinos. Clubs represent a growing percentage of resort revenue, and some of the top grossing clubs in the United States are based at casino properties.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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