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Panel that hasn’t met in more than 25 years should be first to go

Plenty of weighty issues will be addressed tonight in Gov. Brian Sandoval’s State of the State address, and the details will be fleshed out in his proposed budget. It’s no secret he wants to eliminate or consolidate some boards and commissions.

Plenty of his ideas will be controversial. Some advocates will find them objectionable. Others will find them praiseworthy.

Before those details become public, I’d like to make a small suggestion that wouldn’t be too tough or controversial.

Dump the Gaming Policy Committee.

You know, the committee you’ve never even heard of because it hasn’t met in more than 25 years. Obviously, it’s unnecessary, irrelevant and serves no purpose. It’s a committee that doesn’t even have its full contingent of 10 members.

Dumping it wouldn’t save money because it doesn’t meet anyway and the cost would be minimal if it did.

The most valid reason for elimination: By keeping the panel, Nevada sends the wrong message to states that emulate our gaming laws. Frankly, they don’t need it.

Sometimes relics of our past don’t deserve to exist just for the sake of existing.

Former Sen. Terry Care, D-Las Vegas, tried to give the policy committee a proper burial a few years ago.

“I said let’s get rid of it, and that rubbed some people the wrong way. I lost,” Care said. “It doesn’t meet. It doesn’t do anything.”

The Gaming Policy Committee was created in 1961 and was supposed to give the industry direction on policy. Early on, it weighed in on such issues as dealing blackjack from shoes and name tags of casino employees. (I’m pretty sure the industry can handle those tough issues on their own today.)

Originally, it was a committee headed by the governor with 10 other members, half appointed by the governor, and gave the governor a direct voice on gaming issues. But he pretty much has that voice already through his bully pulpit. He doesn’t need a committee.

NRS 463.021 says the governor may call meetings of the committee for the exclusive purpose of discussing matters of gaming policy. But any recommendations they made wouldn’t be binding.

Brandon McDonald researched the committee in 2007 for a gaming law class paper at the Boyd School of Law and discovered that the policy committee has met 32 times. But only Gov. Mike O’Callaghan used it much. He called it up 11 times. The last governor to call a meeting for a policy discussion was Gov. Richard Bryan, who left office in 1989. He called it twice to discuss pari-mutuel wagering.

Today, Bryan said the panel is a historical anachronism whose time has passed.

“If it hasn’t been used in a quarter of a century, it’s outlived its usefulness. It can be dispensed with,” Bryan said.

The state website says it’s a committee with only two members: state Sen. Valerie Wiener and Assemblyman William Horne.

McDonald, now a construction defect attorney, contends for Nevada to maintain clarity in its gaming laws and remain a model for other gaming jurisdictions, both foreign and domestic, the policy committee should go.

A 1997 law made a subcommittee of the policy committee the place to appeal if gaming enterprise districts are created by local governments over the objections of residents. That law came into play twice in 2000. Both times the subcommittee overturned local governments and blocked gaming enterprise districts, once in Spring Valley, then in North Las Vegas.

McDonald believes the Nevada Gaming Commission can handle appeals involving gaming enterprise districts.

He’s right. The commission and the Gaming Control Board, plus the court system, can manage gaming regulation. No other committee is warranted.

If Sandoval seeks suggestions for a committee to eliminate, this one’s an easy call.

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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