The Nevada Gaming Control Board – Clean it Up or Disband It!

Nevada Gaming Control Logo

The Bear Growls: The Nevada Gaming Control Board – Clean it Up or Disband It!

The Nevada Gaming Control Board is little more than a training ground for future casino employees. The last two chairmen crossed the line and went to work for the casino industry after their “public service” ended. Excerpts from my recent column:

… What should be frightening and infuriating to Nevadans is that the outrageous activity by casinos is tolerated by the Nevada Gaming Control Board. If there was to be a vote for least effective public agency, the Gaming Control Board would win easily. It appears to be corrupt from top to bottom, operating as a de facto arm of the casino industry, instead of protecting the public from casino wrongdoing.
The Gaming Control Board is little more than a training ground for future casino employees. The last two chairmen crossed the line and went to work for the casino industry after their “public service” ended. Will present Chairman Dennis Neilander be far behind? The current Board is a see-no-evil, hear-no-evil trio of two undistinguished career bureaucrats and a casino-industry attorney who cater to every whim of the casino bosses, and do little or nothing to protect the public.

Publicized cases of casino cheating underscore the mentality of the Board. The Venetian was caught rigging drawings. The Board fined it a million dollars, which is a petty slap on the wrist for the Venetian. The casino’s license should have been suspended for at least thirty days, the casino closed during that time, and the Venetian ordered to pay its employees during the closure. The crooked employees should have been referred to the District Attorney’s Office for criminal prosecution. Not only was that not done, the Board didn’t even see fit to revoke the privileged licenses of the crooks. To its credit, the Venetian fired all four scoundrels involved in the sordid affair. But at least three subsequently went to work in executive positions at other casinos, one right here in Las Vegas.

In a more recent case, the Golden Nugget attempted to cheat a patron who won $48,600 on a sports bet. The Golden Nugget said it simply would not pay the winner, though it would refund the $2700 bet. The Gaming Control Board ordered the Golden Nugget to pay the victim, but assessed an absurdly small monetary penalty of less than $30,000. Again, no casino employee was prosecuted for trying to cheat a patron, and the fine, actually imposed for failure to notify the Board of a “patron dispute,” was so small as to be ridiculous. It is comical to call an outright attempt to cheat a patron a “patron dispute.” It should have been called what it was, an attempt to cheat a patron.

There are many cases of corrupt Gaming Control Board agents threatening winning casino patrons with phony charges and arrests in attempts to extort the patrons to give back to the casino their honest, legal winnings. The Board has never publicly disclosed if these corrupt agents have been fired, prosecuted, or even disciplined.

The Board had to be sued before it agreed to take action to stop casino cheating at blackjack, through a computerized table that uses marked cards. Incredibly, the Board has permitted the continued use of the marked cards, but has made it less easy, though not impossible, for casinos to use the device to cheat patrons. The Board refuses to publicly disclose a copy of the anti-cheating orders it claims to have issued. Without the embarrassment of being sued for refusing to do its job, the Board would likely have continued to do nothing while the cheating went on unabated.Unfortunately, the Board has the ability to operate largely in secret. A few ill-conceived statutes allow it more secrecy than a regular police department. Most of its files are not considered public records, and are not available for public inspection. Most of its business is conducted via secret deals with casino bosses. Of course, the secret sweetheart-deal making works to the advantage of the Board, its employees and the casino bosses, and to the detriment of the public.

The present Gaming Control Board is an out-of-control, corrupt government agency operating in virtual secrecy. Legislation is needed to force it to open its files and records to the sunshine of public scrutiny. If after public examination of its practices, it is determined to unsalvageable, it should be disbanded, its employees fired from the public payroll.

Nevada does not need another cheating scandal or another abuse-of-patrons scandal in its casinos. There have been far too many already, with no meaningful action ever taken against the wrongdoers. Nevada is competing with many other gaming and vacation destinations. The other states take casino cheating and other wrongdoing seriously. Nevada needs to start doing the same, before it is too late. Once we get a national or worldwide reputation for not having legitimate, effective government oversight of casinos, many of the tourists — the lifeblood of our economy — will stop taking the risk of visiting Nevada.



  1. i am no fan of the gaming control board or casino managers but what are the facts of this “dispute” which makes the managers “cheaters” for refusing to pay off?

  2. The patron wagered a long shot against the posted line on a sporting event. The long shot came in. The sport book wanted to cancel the bets AFTER THE RESULT WAS KNOWN. I suppose it could be called a reverse past-posting attempt by the casino. The patron correctly refused to allow this. The sportsbook refused to pay the patron until ordered to do by Gaming. I think “attempting to cheat the patron” is a mild way to put it. “Attempted theft of winnings” might be more appropriate. They were sore losers. The manager who made the decision to try to cheat the patron should have been barred from the industry. Instead, his employer got away with a puny fine, and no action was taken by Gaming against the dishonest employee.

  3. Revolving doors are the often used analogy for many industry regulation groups.

    I think Casonova would have made the best Gaming Regulator ever. When he escaped from the Italian city states and made his way to Paris he was received at court and the King inquired of him concerning the use of a lottery to fund the Royal Military Academy. The King was loathe to commit millions if there might be only one ticket sold for a measly sou and that ticket might win. Casonova replied that “While there is very little chance of that happening, nothing at all would be better for the Royal Treasury than to pay out millions and take in only one lousy sou”.
    Casonova brought us the 6/49 lottery, valentines day and wealth through ticket sales but he truly understood that the industry benefited by living up to its commitments. Taking in one sous but paying out millions would have been the best stimulant to future lottery sales ever imaginable.

    Draconian penalties rarely work to any great advantage, but dishonesty should be rooted out. There can be temper flare-ups amidst casino employees too, as well as mis-understandings and mis-communication, but outright cheating by casinos should be dealt with rather severely since it threatens the very core of the industry.

    A sports book that sells a winning ticket should simply pay it. Intentional attempts to intimidate a customer into submission over a ‘sweat the money’ ticket shakes the public’s faith in the entire industry.

Leave a Reply