Nevada Regulator Urges Caution Over Portable Licensing In Gaming

October 9, 2023
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A new member of the Nevada Gaming Commission is urging the Nevada Gaming Control Board to forbid so-called portable licensing, which allows gaming executives and other employees to move from one casino to another, even if they are bad actors who are not doing a good job. 
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A new member of the Nevada Gaming Commission is urging the Nevada Gaming Control Board to forbid so-called portable licensing, which allows gaming executives and other employees to move from one casino to another, even if they are bad actors who are not doing a good job. 

“I’m not very supportive of all of us considering the portability, as such, of a license and the reason is that there are a lot of bad actors that keep popping up – just like bad pennies,” George Markantonis told the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) during a workshop to discuss potential changes to state licensing processes on October 5.

“I think portability would make us vulnerable,” said Markantonis, who has served since 2015 as president and chief operating officer of the Venetian, the Palazzo Casino Resorts and the Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas.

Markantonis joined the five-member Nevada Gaming Commission on April 28 after being appointed by Governor Joe Lombardo to succeed Las Vegas attorney Steve Cohen.

Unlike the NGCB, members of the Nevada Gaming Commission are part-time employees who act on the NGCB’s recommendations in licensing matters.

Nevada does not have a license renewal process like other jurisdictions, according to Carl Hoffman, chief of the investigations division of the NGCB.

“Once somebody’s licensed, they – if they don’t move or go to another property – they’re licensed in perpetuity,” Hoffman told Markantonis.

But Hoffman agreed there is a need to review licenses, particularly when officers move up to become directors of casinos. 

NGCB Commissioner Brittnie Watkins noted some gaming jurisdictions outside Nevada issue term-limited licenses. 

Markantonis acknowledged he does not yet have an idea about how to reform portable licensing but added: “I assure you I will spend as much time as I can to come up with some form of a suggested mechanism.” 

The comments made at last week’s NGCB workshop on Nevada's license investigation processes are another sign of the significant gambling reforms being contemplated by regulatory officials under Republican Governor Joe Lombardo. 

Kirk Hendrick, who took over as NGCB chair in January, said during the October 5 meeting that his agency may need to charge other jurisdictions more money to conduct background research for licensing investigations.

“Certainly, we’re all happy to be what’s been identified as the gold standard in the world of gaming. But… the legislature is not giving us any money for that,” Hendrick said. 

“So we can’t be shortchanging the citizens of the state of Nevada, the taxpayers of Nevada. We want to be good regulators and good regulator neighbors to everybody else in the world, but… if the proliferation of gaming is asking us to be their educator, is asking us to do their homework, we’re going to have to figure out some way that they have to pay for that.”

Hoffman, the NGCB’s investigative chief, offered a different perspective.

“One positive thing about helping out other jurisdictions, besides good will, is – the cleaner the gambling industry, the better its reputation worldwide – [the better it is] for Nevada,” Hoffman said. 

The discussion last week on potential licensing reforms followed a similar recent discussion on potential changes to Nevada’s gaming technology approval processes. A third regulatory workshop is scheduled for October 18 on Nevada’s approach to gaming enforcement.

On Friday, the NGCB formally announced its so-called ACES program to streamline technology approvals for certain types of gaming equipment and systems. 

According to an NGCB notice, gaming providers will no longer require pre-approval from the NGCB of an independent test lab when they update a non-regulated component of a gaming system.

Components of a system that affect gaming but do not have a revenue reporting impact will now only require approval from the NGCB chair, rather than a full inspection, prior to deployment.

Meanwhile, the NGCB also met on October 4 and granted a two-year conditional license to sports-betting and online gaming platform provider GAN, which is going through a transition in its leadership following the abrupt resignation last month of longtime CEO Dermot Smurfit. 

The conditions require GAN, which has a pending technology agreement to provide a sportsbook platform for Station Casinos in Nevada, to submit applications to the NGCB for the company’s new president and/or chief executive officer and chief financial officer within one year.

Additional reporting by James Kilsby.

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