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.