Nevada gaming sexual harassment prevention rules spark debate

A bid to add sexual harassment prevention guidelines to state gaming regulations is shaping up to be a debate over whether existing federal harassment rules already provide enough oversight for the industry.

State Gaming Control Board Chairwoman Becky Harris on Friday conducted a workshop meeting to explain some of the proposed amendments to gaming regulations to around 100 people attending, but only five people offered comments.

Harris said she continues to believe the regulations are necessary.

“I think that this is an important issue in our time,” Harris said after the meeting.

‘Regulations are vague’

“I think the regulations are very vague. This is an attempt to highlight that sexual harassment prevention and awareness is important but that board wants some parameters on what those policies would and should look like,” she said. “The fact that we have a lot of federal legislation and state laws and that this is still an issue of concern for many would speak to the fact that perhaps those methods are not as effective as we would like for them to be.”

A proposed amendment to Regulation 5, the industry’s rules on the operation of gaming establishments and businesses, would add a new section ordering licensees to maintain written policies and procedures addressing prevention, reporting and investigation of and response to sexual harassment in the licensee’s workplace.

The proposed regulation references a checklist every licensee would have to complete and file annually with the board.

While most of the comments presented Friday were either questions on interpretations of the proposals or support of the amendments, one speaker questioned the need for the regulation.

Barry Lieberman, an attorney for Gaughan South, parent company of the South Point, said the proposal “goes beyond the traditional scope of gaming regulation.”

Oversight already in place

Lieberman said oversight of sexual harassment issues already are carried out by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Nevada Equal Rights Commission. He added that Regulation 5 already gives regulators the authority to discipline licensees.

“We believe that … sections in the current regulation provide the Gaming Control Board and the Nevada Gaming Commission with the authority to discipline a licensee who violated federal, state and local statutes and regulations which prohibit discrimination and harassment,” he told the three board members.

Harris said although there weren’t many comments — the entire hearing lasted less than an hour — that other stakeholders have presented comments in writing.

She said community advocates, employees, employers and at least one harassment victim have provided written testimony. Authors of written testimony have the privilege of keeping their comments anonymous.

Harris said she expects to conduct a second informational workshop hearing in Carson City in November before having discussions in future public meetings. Once all testimony is gathered, board members would have to determine whether they want to make a recommendation to the Nevada Gaming Commission for consideration.

Wynn connection

Gaming Commission Chairman Tony Alamo has said he doesn’t want to consider sexual harassment regulation proposals until after regulators in Massachusetts and Nevada complete their investigations of Steve Wynn and Wynn Resorts.

Wynn, who resigned as chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts in February, has been accused of harassing employees and has denied all accusations. Harris has said the harassment regulations were drafted because of the national prominence of the issue and not as a result of the Wynn investigations.

Among the speakers at Friday’s hearing was Stacie Michaels, an attorney with Wynn Las Vegas, who said the company supports efforts to amend regulations.

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

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