Gaming Commission Chairman Bernhard to be reappointed

Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Pete Bernhard will be appointed by Gov. Brian Sandoval to a new four-year term heading the regulatory panel.

Two sources confirmed the reappointment of the Las Vegas attorney, who is the longest-serving chairman in the history of the gaming commission.

Bernhard, who has held the position since 2001, declined to comment Monday. A formal announcement from the governor’s office is expected today or Wednesday.

A source said Bernhard was the only person Sandoval formally interviewed for the part-time position. The five-person gaming commission makes the final decision on all gaming licensing and policy matters based on recommendations from the full-time Gaming Control Board.

The chairman of the gaming commission earns $55,000 a year while the four commissioners earn $40,000. The salary levels have not changed since 1995.

Bernhard was chairman of the state Ethics Commission when Gov. Kenny Guinn named him gaming commission chairman to fill out the unexpired term of Sandoval, who stepped down to run for Nevada attorney general. Guinn reappointed Bernhard to a full four-year term in 2003 and Gov. Jim Gibbons reappointed Bernhard in 2007.

Bernhard oversaw the gaming commission when it approved some of the major events that have influenced the state’s gaming industry in the past decade, including the multibillion-dollar mergers in 2005 of Harrah’s Entertainment and Caesars Entertainment and the then-MGM Mirage with the Mandalay Resort Group and the 2009 licensing of CityCenter.

The commission under Bernhard also oversaw the 2008 private equity buyouts of Harrah’s (now Caesars Entertainment Corp.) in 2008 and Station Casinos.

In recent months, the commission has approved the bankruptcy reorganizations of Herbst Gaming and the Riviera and is expected to investigation the Chapter 11 reorganization of Station Casinos, possibly as early as next month.

Outside of the gaming commission, Bernhard serves as of counsel to the Kaempfer Crowell law firm, which is headquartered in Las Vegas.

Questions concerning Bernhard’s reappointment arose this month over his participation in the licensing of three Dotty’s Gaming and Spirits locations in March.

Chris Kaempfer, who is the senior partner for the law firm where Bernhard is of counsel, represented Dotty’s in front of the Clark County Commission this month, when commissioners voted 5-2 to kill the company’s business model.

At the gaming commission meeting in March, Bernhard said he discussed his status at the law firm with the attorney general’s office and informally with others who have "knowledge of these types of issues" for additional guidance.

Bernhard said he didn’t have a "pecuniary interest in the work of the firm" nor did he have access to any of the Dotty’s background materials. He said he couldn’t use a simple or an uncertain conflict as a reason to withdraw from the matter.

"In my view, the reasonable judgment of a person in my position would not be affected by the fact that I happen to have office space in a firm that I’m of counsel," Bernhard said.

Sources said Bernhard discussed the Dotty’s matter with Sandoval.

The chairmanship of the gaming commission has typically been held by an attorney. The current gaming commission has two other attorneys besides Bernhard; John Moran Jr. and Joe Brown. Former state Sen. Randolph Townsend of Reno and Las Vegas physician Tony Alamo Jr. round out the panel.

Bernhard’s position, which expires this week, was the only gaming commission appointment pending.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at or 702-477-3871.

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