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Aggressive Gaming Board member sounded necessary alarms

You can’t say Gaming Control Board member Randall Sayre doesn’t give the gaming industry a heads up about his regulatory concerns before pouncing.

He warned the industry in 2009 it needed to pay closer attention to the operations of nightclubs and pools where there were rapes, assaults, open drug use, underage drinking, prostitution, public sex acts and customers ignominiously dumped off the premises. The blame was on the operators, but the board said the gaming companies had to be responsible.

Planet Hollywood was fined $750,000 for not overseeing the now defunct Privé, sending a message through the industry that more needed to be done about wild behavior, criminal acts and customer safety.

Then the Palms paid $450,000 after tournament organizers stiffed winners, and owner George Maloof paid a $100,000 fine on top of that. A message that outsourcing doesn’t remove the responsibility of the gaming licensee.

One of my personal favorites in the arena of discipline: Caesars Palace staff did nothing to stop a baccarat player in a private salon from dancing on the tables and placing bets while doing so. The resort paid $250,000 for that.

Sayre’s latest warning? Gamers need to make sure they’re protecting personal and financial information of customers. On Wednesday, Sayre issued an industry letter warning they could face discipline if they don’t protect their databases.

His letter, now available on the Gaming Control Board’s website, said the board “recently investigated numerous incidents where such databases have been compromised and the potential for identity information theft existed.”

“This puts the industry on notice they have obligations regarding the personal and financial information of their customers,” Sayre said.

At one property, customers were exploited and their player points were stolen. “You can put all the computer programs in place you want, but if you don’t address the human element, you’re exposed to disciplinary action.”

Sayre, 58, is winding down his four-year term on the board. Gaming attorneys say he’ll be a loss because he was a reasonable board member, worthy of reappointment. But he may have asked for too much.

He told Gov.-elect Brian Sandoval’s team he only wanted reappointment if he could be chairman.

If he had become chairman, Sayre said he hoped to continue eliminating more regulations that served little purpose. He also wanted to take the lead in forming regulations if Internet gaming is legalized in the United States. “I think any regulatory body needs to regulate from the middle, not overregulate, not underregulate,” he said. “Any regulatory body must be able to change, to make an ongoing risk assessment. The position we do this because it was always done this way is irrelevant.”

He’s worked on rewriting Regulation 5 governing salon gaming, saying it was overly restrictive. Another change involving reporting on key employees, reducing the paperwork for a large company such as the MGM Resorts International from 3 inches to three or four pages.

However, Sandoval chose not to reappoint Sayre and the current chairman, Dennis Neilander, who said he didn’t want to be reappointed.

Because Sandoval’s appointments so far have been of high quality, there’s no reason to believe the two new control board members joining Mark Lipparelli won’t be top-notch.

Sayre and others said I was wrong to assume he wasn’t reappointed because of his aggressive approach to out-of-control behavior at the pools and nightclubs. (I still get complaints from women who believe they were slipped a date rape drug at a club and sexually assaulted.)

Warning: Before his term ends by the end of the year, Sayre anticipates one more gaming company will face disciplinary action by the board regarding oversight of pools and nightclubs.

(Don’t bet against the Hard Rock being the one.)

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/morrison.

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