Regulators consider changes on regulation governing taverns

Nevada gaming regulators put off for at least a month any decision on changes to a state regulation that would set parameters on taverns with slot machines.

After a contentious hearing Thursday, the Nevada Gaming Commission deferred proposed changes to State Gaming Regulation 3.015 until the five-person panel meets Aug. 25 in Carson City.

Halfway through the hearing on the regulation covering slot machines in non-casino locations such as restaurants, bars and taverns, three proposals had surfaced. Representatives of businesses that could be affected by any rule changes said they weren’t sure which draft proposal was being discussed.

By today, the three proposals are to be available on the Nevada Gaming Commission’s website. One proposal is offered by the Nevada Resort Association and the Tavern Owners Association. Control Board Chairman Mark Lipparelli also authored several changes to the regulation. A third offering comes from gaming Commissioner Dr. Tony Alamo Jr., who combined the first two proposals and added several of his changes.

Gaming Commission Chairman Pete Bernhard thought letting the public digest all three proposals was the best way to proceed. Clearly, however, Bernhard wants the matter completed in August.

The proposed changes to the regulation, which proponents say would better define at what point gaming could be considered “incidental,” split the Gaming Commission, often a unanimous panel.

“Sometimes we agree, but on this one we really don’t,” Alamo said.

Bernhard had spent close to 30 minutes grilling Station Casinos Executive Vice President Scott Nielson on the portions of the resort association’s proposal.

Officials with Dotty’s Gaming & Spirits, with their business model offering gaming with minimal service, asked the Gaming Commission that any changes in the regulation not be retroactive.

Dotty’s consultant Patricia Becker said the company could have to spend up to $50,000 on each of its more than 60 locations if the company is required to comply with some proposed changes.

“A Nevada gaming regulation has never been made retroactive,” said Becker, an ex-member of the control board.

Bernhard, however, seemed to oppose any changes. At the hearing’s outset, he pointedly took apart each one of the proposals offered by the resort association and the tavern owners. On each point, Bernhard asked Nielson why gaming regulators “should be concerned” about bar sizes and restaurant square footage.

“Why is the NRA doing this?” he said.

Nielson said Dotty’s was a risk to locals casinos and neighborhood taverns, but Bernhard didn’t seem to agree with such arguments. He asked Nielson to provide a test for determining a business’s primary revenue source.

“There is no test. It’s subjective,” Nielson said.

Gaming Commissioner John Moran Jr., said he believed tavern owners and casino operators want clarification.

“I don’t look at this as a David versus Goliath issue,” he said.

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