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Nevada gaming regulators continue to weigh marijuana policies

Updated June 22, 2017 - 4:37 pm

Policies on how the legal use of marijuana will affect the gaming industry are expected to be aired next month as regulators grapple with the oncoming legalization of recreational pot.

Nevada Gaming Commission members took advantage of an unrelated company licensing Thursday to glean information about how Colorado gaming authorities address issues related to recreational pot as an unofficial preview of coming attractions.

While gaming regulators have drawn a line in the sand between gaming and marijuana, there are still dozens of unresolved questions they want to discuss as the date of the first sales of recreational marijuana nears.

Nevada gaming regulators more than two years ago warned licensees not to involve themselves in the marijuana business, which they view as a federal offense inappropriate for gaming companies’ participation.

Colorado authorities treat gaming companies in that state the same way, but there are other issues that have arisen for which the Gaming Commission wanted answers.

So when Golden, Colorado-based Jacobs Entertainment appeared for licensing to operate the Sands Regency in Reno — which was unanimously approved — Commission Chairman Tony Alamo and Commissioner John Moran queried Stanley Politano, executive vice president of Jacobs, about marijuana policy as part of their questioning.

“Marijuana is illegal federally so we don’t participate in that business,” Politano told the board. “However, we have employees that can legally consume this stuff so we treat marijuana very similarly to the way we treat alcohol, that is if we have an incident, we test for it and, just like alcohol, if there’s some problem, they’ll be disciplined accordingly.”

Testing at any time

Politano said his company has a policy that gives management the right to drug test an employee at any time.

In May 2014, Gaming Control Board Member Terry Johnson issued a notice to licensees on medical marijuana stating that unless federal laws are changed, state gaming regulators would continue to view marijuana as an illegal substance and possession as a federal offense with involvement by licensees discouraged.

Johnson has reached out to Alamo about having a meeting on issues related to pot use as the legalization of recreational sales due to begin July 1. Alamo said that could occur as early as next month.

Among the issues likely to be discussed: how regulators would view employee marijuana use; the responsibility of licensees if they discover customers in possession of marijuana at their properties; and how conferences and seminars on marijuana use can be accommodated at casino properties.

Temporary license granted

In other business, the commission earlier in the meeting unanimously approved by consent a temporary license to United Coin Machine to operate 16 slot machines at Las Vegas Club and Mermaids in downtown Las Vegas next Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, to preserve grandfathered gaming licenses for the buildings containing the two properties.

Derek and Greg Stevens, owners of downtown’s D and Golden Gate properties, acquired the buildings for the shuttered Las Vegas Club and Mermaids in 2015 and 2016. The Stevenses plan to demolish the structures and build an as-yet unnamed new development with an undetermined size and price.

Licensees are required to conduct casino play for at least eight hours every two years in order to preserve a gaming license.

United Coin has become the go-to company to set up temporary casinos for license preservation.

The commission also approved by consent applications to award horse-racing dates in Ely Aug. 18-20 and in Elko Aug. 26 to Sept. 4 for county fairs.

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

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