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Regulatory board losing two members

The Gaming Control Board will have new look come January.

Dennis Neilander, a member of the three-person panel since 1998 and chairman since 2001, said Friday he won’t seek reappointment to a new four-year term as the state’s chief gaming regulator.

Control board member Randall Sayre, the former chief of the agency’s investigative division, said Friday he was told by the staff of Gov.-elect Brian Sandoval that he would not be reappointed to a second four-year term.

Both Neilander’s and Sayre’s current terms expire at the end of the year.

The control board, which is the state’s enforcement and investigative agency for gaming, makes recommendations on matters to the Nevada Gaming Commission. Its three members are full-time state employees. Control board members earn $125,112 annually. The chairman earns $134,554.

The shuffling means Sandoval, who served nearly three years as a member and chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission, will make two appointments to the panel.

Dale Erquiaga, Sandoval’s deputy transition director, said the governor-elect will select his choices for the open positions and forward those names to outgoing Gov. Jim Gibbons, who will make the appointments before he leaves office.

“Gov.-elect Sandoval is currently vetting several names for both appointments,” Erquiaga said. “We’re working together with the governor to make this a smooth transition. Once we get those names cleared, they will be forwarded to the governor.”

The change will leave Mark Lipparelli as the panel’s senior member. Lipparelli, who was appointed to the board in January 2009 by Gibbons, spent much of his career working in the gaming equipment manufacturing sector.

Lipparelli declined comment Friday if he was interested in becoming the panel’s chairman.

Longtime gaming attorney Frank Schreck, who served as a member of the gaming commission from 1971 to 1975, said there is precedent for the control board to have two new members. The biggest concern, he said, is that the agency is losing two members who have lengthy histories in gaming regulation.

“You can’t replace that experience,” Schreck said.

However, he thought Sandoval’s background as a member of the commission and as a former Nevada attorney general would help him in the selection process. Schreck said it is important that Sandoval select an attorney for one of the spots.

“I think that would be very helpful,” Schreck said. “It’s a skill set that we need to have with the complexity of some of these huge corporations.”

Neilander said he told Sandoval’s staff before Thanksgiving that he was not interested in seeking a new term. Neilander said he was helping Sandoval’s staff identify possible candidates. He also volunteered to help in the transition.

“It felt like it was the right time to move to something new,” said Neilander, who is an attorney. “There comes a time when it’s good for the agency to have a fresh look.”

Neilander oversaw regulatory matters during the gaming industry’s financial boom times this decade and during the heart of the recent economic recession. Last year, he established a task force within the agency to handle regulatory and licensing requirements that were expected to surface because of casino industry debt restructuring.

Neilander also had to manage state-mandated budget cuts that left the control board short-staffed.

He said Sandoval is considering several candidates for the chairman’s position.

“I’ve offered to help in any way I can,” Neilander said.

A native of Denver, Neilander moved to Carson City in 1990 to work as an attorney for the Legislative Council Bureau. He joined the control board in 1995 as the chief of the corporate securities division.

Gov. Bob Miller appointed Neilander to the control board as a member in 1998 and he was named chairman in January 2001 by Gov. Kenny Guinn. Neilander was reappointed chairman in 2003 by Guinn and in 2007 by Gibbons.

Sayre, who is completing his first term on the board, was appointed to his seat in January 2007 by Gibbons.

Sayre, who had been employed in the control board’s investigations division since 1990 and was chief at the time he was named to the control board, said he sought reappointment.

“I respect the governor-elect’s position on this,” said Sayre, who had risen to the rank of brigadier general in the Nevada Army National Guard before he retired in 2006. “I spoke with both the current governor and members of the governor-elect’s staff and I was told I would not be reappointed.”

His appointment to the control board was controversial. Sayre was named to the seat by Gibbons in January 2007 in an attempt to supersede a previous appointment to the open seat by outgoing Gov. Guinn.

A legal skirmish was avoided when Guinn’s choice, Keith Munro, accepted a position as chief of staff to Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871.

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