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Nevada Gaming Control Board looks to speed up game approvals

Nevada Gaming Control Board members took the first step toward streamlining the process of approving new games and variations on old ones after a three-hour workshop with industry leaders Tuesday.

Control Board Chairman Kirk Hendrick drafted a list of ideas on a whiteboard in the Control Board’s chambers as about a dozen industry leaders shared their frustrations and ideas with board members.

“We left with some action items and some of them may take regulatory changes, so we’d need a reg workshop,” Hendrick said after the meeting. “Some of them (solutions) may take statutory changes, which I don’t know if we’d be able to deal with them in this (legislative) session. I didn’t hear a lot of (ideas for) statutory changes. The main thing is what can we do sooner rather than later.”

Hendrick and the Control Board scheduled the workshop — his and board member George Assad’s first since being appointed to the board in January — after Gov. Joe Lombardo said in his State of the State address in January that he wanted to prioritize the streamlining of game approvals.

Among those who testified Tuesday were former Gov. Robert List, who explained how former Gov. Grant Sawyer led the charge to remove the mob from casinos and established a regulatory system that required new games to be thoroughly tested under laboratory conditions before being placed in a limited number of casinos on a trial basis ahead of market distribution.

Several manufacturers in the workshop said the approval process gets delayed because regulators are asked to step in and check any game modifications before they can be put back in play. Those checks result in days, or up to months, of delays.

Manufacturing executive John Acres of Acres 4.0 told the board that Nevada’s regulatory methods inhibit innovation and that, adjusted for inflation, manufacturers made less money with new products in 2022 than they did in 2006. The reason: Regulatory approvals in Nevada take longer compared to other states.

“That logjam is caused by the lengthy process required for approving new gambling-related products,” Acres said. “The Nevada Gaming Control Board reviews each new product to certify that it complies with technological regulations, a process that takes three to 18 months to complete. Once certified, the product is operated at a single casino as a field trial.”

Acres said before a product can be modified to fix a flaw, the modification itself must be certified by the Control Board. Each modification certification requires four to 12 weeks to accomplish, he said.

“The sum of all certification times required to complete a single new product field trial is six to 24 months,” he said. “That delay crushes innovation and its accompanying burden of certification overwhelms the Control Board’s limited staff, thereby creating the logjam Gov. Lombardo seeks to clear.”

One of the ideas Hendrick wants to explore is how approvals in other states seem to go faster than in Nevada.

“If another regulated jurisdiction that has the same reporting requirements as Nevada, if they’re doing it faster than us, I want to know,” he said. “I want to know how they figured it out. My guess is they took our system and said, ‘I can make it faster.’”

Hendrick said he also wants to have a conversation with Daron Dorsey, executive director of Las Vegas-based Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers, who testified in the hearing, to explore how regulations and policies can be modified to speed up the approval process.

Hendrick said the board must be wary of making changes that could affect casino operators, since any regulatory violations could be assessed against operators, not manufacturers.

“We don’t want to end up with things being approved and six months or six years later down the road, it didn’t actually do the proper reporting and then the operators are told, ‘You didn’t report this right.’ It’s a regulation violation by the operator and not the manufacturer.”

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

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