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Outgoing Nevada Gaming Commissioner Philip Pro reflects on term

Gov. Steve Sisolak now needs to make another appointment to the Nevada Gaming Commission after Philip Pro declined reappointment to the five-member gaming regulatory board last week.

The commission is down a member with Sisolak’s appointment of former Commissioner Sandra Morgan to head the state Gaming Control Board. Late Tuesday, Sisolak appointed Henderson resident Rosa Solis-Rainey of the Las Vegas-based Morris Law Group to take Morgan’s spot.

Pro indicated in last week’s meeting in Carson City that the April meeting was his last.

He was selected by former Gov. Brian Sandoval to complete a four-year term vacated in October 2015 by Pat Mulroy, who left the commission to join the board of directors of Wynn Resorts Ltd. Pro retired as a U.S. District Court judge in January 2015 after serving 35 years on the bench.

It was a smooth fit for Pro, who early in his legal career worked for the Nevada Attorney General’s Office counseling the Gaming Commission.

“We had our plate full with organized crime cases back then,” Pro said in an interview.

While Pro said organized crime cases were interesting and led to Nevada taking its place as the world’s leading gaming regulatory authority, matters reviewed in his 3½ years on the commission were equally interesting, he said.

“We obviously had some big issues dealing with how to handle the legalization of marijuana, first the medical and then the recreational, and the policies we were going to deal with on that,” he said.

“Early on daily fantasy sports became a big issue and the governor put together another meeting of the Gaming Policy Committee to address that and, candidly, that was something I knew very little about and I had to go to school on it.”

Daily fantasy sports eventually resolved itself without much controversy when leading companies DraftKings and FanDuel opted not to seek licensing in Nevada.

Pro also said he was fascinated by the expansion of esports in the state.

“My view of our job as regulators is that we need to provide that stability and make sure the law is followed in every instance to protect the public first and foremost, but also the licensees as well,” he said. “We don’t micromanage the companies. They know what directions they want to take their businesses. I don’t, and it’s not my job to tell them what kind of business they should have, as long as it complies with the regulations and the laws or the regulations are changed as necessary.”

Without naming it specifically, Pro said the commission’s discipline of Wynn Resorts Ltd. was also an important benchmark.

Commissioners unanimously approved a record $20 million fine against the company for violating a regulation that licensees are not to damage the reputation of the state’s gaming industry.

“The last matter we had was huge in terms of sending a message to the industry,” he said. “I think it’s something we expressed very clearly at the time.”

Pro said Nevada’s reputation as a leading gaming industry regulator has grown more important because “it’s a bigger playing field. It’s international.”

Pro, who said his biggest satisfaction has been performing public service work by serving in public trust positions, will go back to building his arbitration and mediation service, teach law classes when he can at UNLV and to spend more time with family traveling.

Gaming Commission Chairman Tony Alamo, who urged people in attendance at Thursday’s meeting to “all rise” in respect for Pro as the meeting ended, said he has not been notified by Sisolak about the timetable for replacing Morgan and Pro.

He said the commission could continue to operate as a three-member board until replacements are named.

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

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