Las Vegas leaders on Wednesday approved half a gaming license sought by tavern operator Dotty’s for a location.
City Council members, taking up the issue for the third time in four months, signed off on just seven of 15 slot machines sought by the controversial company’s location at Hualapai Way and Sahara Avenue.
That’s fewer than half the total the company has been approved to operate at each of more than 100 locations around the state.
The move came after months of discussion and a pair of lengthy staff reports surrounding the question of whether Dotty’s — which serves food and drinks but makes most of its money through slot machines — can be properly classified as a tavern operation.
Nevada law, with city codes, require noncasino gaming revenue to be “incidental” to a bar, restaurant or convenience store’s operations.
Casino companies and local government critics have for years accused Dotty’s of shirking that rule and running its businesses more like a strip mall slot arcade than a bar, a move they say has enabled the company to set up shop much closer to residential neighborhoods.
Attorneys representing the company did not rule out suing over Wednesday’s vote, which they said unfairly singled out Dotty’s and could mean the closure of the location approved for fewer slot machines.
Councilman Bob Coffin didn’t seem to mind the threat of litigation.
After looking at the revenue figures, Coffin said he simply couldn’t conclude that gaming was incidental to the company’s operations.
“If we lose this in court because we have made a mistake, I will gladly accept that decision,” he said. “When I saw those numbers, in plain language, they did not look incidental.”
State legislators and the Nevada Gaming Control Board have repeatedly balked at reaching the same conclusion, which is part of the reason Mayor Carolyn Goodman said she felt comfortable supporting the company’s bid for another full-fledged tavern gaming license.
It’s the same reason longtime company critic and Councilman Bob Beers has said he’d prefer to deny the company’s latest bid for a license.
In the absence of clarifying action from the state — and given the considerable amount of money Dotty’s rakes in through tobacco sales — Beers figured it was fair to award the company’s newest Las Vegas location seven machines, the same allowed at convenience stores.
That notion didn’t sit well with company attorneys.
“This is not a convenience store, this is a tavern,” said company attorney Susan Johnson. “We can’t operate with seven machines.”
A temporary tavern gaming license previously awarded to the company’s Sahara and Hualapai location expires Nov. 25. The amended license newly approved by Las Vegas leaders takes effect Nov. 26.
Contact James DeHaven at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3839. Find him on Twitter: @JamesDeHaven