From Cage Fighting Executive To Nevada's Top Gambling Regulator

October 27, 2023
With two of the world’s biggest sporting events coming to Las Vegas in less than four months, it is almost fitting that the new chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board spent 15 years as a key executive of Ultimate Fighting Championship.

With two of the world’s biggest sporting events coming to Las Vegas in less than four months, it’s almost fitting that the new chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board spent 15 years as a key executive of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

Kirk Hendrick, who was appointed control board chairman in January by newly-elected Nevada Republican Governor Joe Lombardo, described his time at UFC as an “amazing rollercoaster ride.”

“At the beginning, I was in charge of going around the United States and around the world, having to step in front of regulators and say ‘You have an illegal activity occurring in your state or jurisdiction right now. We’d like you to legalize that by law, by statute and allow two guys to get inside of a closed fence and use any martial art they want — but the good news is that it will be regulated’,” Hendrick said during an interview on Monday (October 24) with Vixio GamblingCompliance.

For the first time since the 1982 Caesars Palace Grand Prix, Las Vegas will host a Formula 1 (F1) race on November 18 on a temporary street circuit including the Las Vegas Strip.

On February 11, 2024, the National Football League’s Super Bowl will make its Las Vegas debut at Allegiant Stadium.

“The world-wide media exposure, when you get an event like F1, is amazing. It translates across the world,” Hendrick said.

“That sport is the most expensive sport in the world, and the fans that come for it travel. They travel very heavily, and they spend heavily, and they remember where the events are. They’re all in an iconic jurisdiction.”

To prepare for F1 and the Super Bowl, the NGCB’s enforcement division will work with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and other law enforcement agencies to provide safety and security.

“This agency [the NGCB] wears a lot of different hats,” Hendrick said. “We have almost a hundred actual peace officers, Nevada peace officers — gun carrying, plainclothes peace officers — so they will be part of that effort.”

A native Texan, Hendrick was born in Amarillo but grew up in Las Vegas and graduated from Chaparral High School.

After graduating from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas where he was student body president, Hendrick earned a degree at California Western School of Law in San Diego before returning to Nevada to launch his career.

Married and the father of a son and daughter, Hendrick will celebrate his 59th birthday next month.

One of the first things he has done as the NGCB chair is dispense with the dais where he and the two NGCB commissioners hear testimony from witnesses.

“I’ve been in front of a lot of regulators over my career, and it is a little bit intimidating when you talk up to a dais where they’re a few feet higher than you. It feels like a court procedure,” Hendrick said.

Hendrick even wanted to emulate a town-hall format where a microphone could be passed around, but the logistics did not comply with the Nevada Open Meeting Law.

As for witnesses who testify before the NGCB, Hendrick enforces what he calls a “one-to-one-ratio.”

“By that, I meant you can come up with one complaint but come up with one solution as well,” he said.

During an NGCB meeting last month, Hendrick said he took the job of chairman to “to make radical change, make revolutionary change.”

He has since walked back those comments, saying he wants to make “unconventional, non-traditional” change.

For example, Hendrick has proposed expediting approval of technology applications from established licensees if they are willing to pay a toll like they would drive in an express lane.

Hendrick is all-in on Governor Lombardo’s agenda for all Nevada agencies to eliminate at least ten regulations.

“I haven’t known him that long, but we are on the same page philosophically,” Hendrick said of the governor.

Earlier in his career as a deputy attorney general, Hendrick represented the NGCB and became familiar with the agency’s operations.

However, since becoming chair, Hendrick said his biggest surprise has been how much administrative work he is required to do.

“You end up with just … a lot of government red tape,” he said. “I want to get to the big picture stuff.”

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