A.G. Burnett, chairman of the state Gaming Control Board since November 2012, has resigned to take a job in the private sector.
Burnett, an attorney, is taking a position with the McDonald Carano law firm in Reno, according to a press release issued Monday afternoon by Gov. Brian Sandoval’s office. Burnett emailed the Control Board staff about his departure earlier Monday.
Sandoval indicated he’d name a replacement for Burnett at a later date. His last day on the job will be Dec. 22.
In a telephone interview, Burnett said he’s ready for a new challenge after checking off several accomplishments over the years.
“When I was appointed, a drew up a list of things I wanted to get done,” Burnett said. “Internet gambling. Nightclub regulations. Daily fantasy sports. We checked all of them off.
“When I was reappointed, I made another list,” he said. “Skill-based gaming. Hybrids. Marijuana use. On that last one, we drew a line on it and it wasn’t easy. And we checked all those off.”
Burnett said family matters also entered into the decision, agreeing to take a job with a firm he once clerked for, in a position that will take financial pressure off his wife, a teacher.
Burnett will work with McDonald Carano’s gaming and administrative law group, joining attorneys A.J. “Bud” Hicks, Greg Giordano and Dennis Gutwald. He’ll have to wait out a year-long “cooling-off” period before representing clients before Nevada regulators. He said he would follow the leads of former gaming regulators Dennis Neilander and Mark Clayton who made similar moves from regulator to private practice.
“In addition to his vast experience with Nevada gaming licensing matters and regulatory requirements, A.G. brings tremendous knowledge relating to the issues that are presently roiling the gaming industry including matters relating to the potential spread of interstate sports betting opportunities and internet gaming developments,” said Hicks. “He will be an invaluable resource for our present clients and for new clients as they enter the industry.”
Burnett has been on the three-member board since January 2011 and a year and a half later, was appointed chairman by Sandoval, replacing Mark Lipparelli, who resigned three months in advance of the completion of his four-year term on the regulatory panel.
Burnett had been deputy chief of the Control Board’s corporate securities division prior to being named to the board. He also served as a senior deputy attorney general in the gaming division when Sandoval was attorney general.
“A.G. was a fair and thoughtful regulator who impressively balanced the roles of top gaming watchdog with ensuring that our state’s leading industry maintained flexibility to innovate and achieve forward progress,” Sandoval said in the release. “He was respected by both his peers and the industry he served and I know that he will look back on his career in public service with pride.”
Burnett received $184,970 in pay and benefits in 2016, including a $133,372 annual salary, according to the Transparent Nevada website listing the pay of public employees.
Burnett was in the spotlight in May following disclosures that he secretly recorded Attorney General Adam Laxalt, now a Republican candidate for governor, during a March 2016 conversation about a request from Las Vegas Sands Corp. involving the confidentiality of state records. Laxalt asked that regulators file a “friend of the court” brief on behalf of Sands in a civil lawsuit against the licensee.
No brief was ever filed and Burnett turned a copy of the recording over to the FBI, which concluded no crime had been committed by Laxalt in making the request.
Burnett said the dust-up with Laxalt had nothing to do with his decision to leave.
“I put that behind me a long time ago and I had been thinking for quite awhile about doing something different,” Burnett said.
The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.
‘He’ll be missed’
A.G. Burnett’s counterpart on the Nevada Gaming Commission, Chairman Tony Alamo, said he’s sad to see him leave.
“He’ll definitely be missed,” Alamo said. “He was knowledgeable and had a real commitment to the job. I can tell you that A.G. Burnett and I worked very well together and I’d like to think that he and I did some good things for the state.”
Alamo wouldn’t speculate on who he expects to be appointed chairman. In the past, some governors have promoted one of the other two members to chairman and appointed a new member, as was the case with Burnett.
The two other members are Shawn Reid, from Northern Nevada, and Terry Johnson from Southern Nevada. Johnson was appointed to the board when Burnett was named chairman.