GAMING CONTROL BOARD LOSING AGENTS
Friday, November 24, 2000
By JEFF SIMPSON
lasvegas.com GAMING WIRE
The Nevada Gaming Control Board is having a difficult time retaining
agents, and the reason is simple.
Board agents who enjoy their work and would like to remain are
instead to accept more money to work for other government agencies
private industry, both in and outside Nevada.
"Exit interviews with our agents who leave reveal that they're
because they'll earn significantly more elsewhere," Control Board Chairman
They're offered more elsewhere because the board's agents are
and well-trained, noted DuCharme, who announced his intention last
leave the board in January after 10 years of service.
The board employs 430 workers. Of those, 341 are agents. Nonsupervisory
control board agents earn between $30,000 and $46,000, depending on
length of employment and credentials, the chairman said.
The board's agents have traditionally been paid better than
employees, DuCharme said.
"It's always been the most prestigious state agency," he said.
agents can earn 70 percent more working as certified public accountants
private industry, and our investigations and enforcement agents can
to $60,000 and get a car to drive from other regulatory agencies in
Most Board agents aren't given cars to drive, he noted.
The board found that 71 agents left for avoidable causes between
1998 and this past Oct. 6, defining avoidable turnover as employees
for reasons other than death, retirement or other unavoidable reasons,.
Carol Thomas of the State Department of Personnel quantified
board's turnover on an annual basis. Investigator agents had a 19 percent
annual turnover rate while enforcement agents left at a 13.6 percent
"The board's auditors had an astounding 26.6 percent turnover
By way of comparison, the turnover rate for state employees
percent, Thomas said.
Just as Willie Sutton said he robbed banks "because that's where
is," Nevada's agents are recruited by industry and other states because
Silver State regulators possess skills needed by an expanding industry
new gambling jurisdictions.
"We're looking for folks with expertise and experience," said
California's Director of the Division of Gambling Control Harlan
Goodson, whose agency has hired several control board agents since
his state's voters approved legalizing tribal casinos in March.
"Nevada has a 40-year history of regulating gambling, and it's been
our experience that their agents are both well trained and well regarded."
Board Enforcement Division Agent Paul Stolberg is now going through
application process at California's Division of Gambling Control. After
doing criminal investigations for the control board for 10 years,
Stolberg has reached the maximum salary he can earn, about $45,000
"I'm topped out here, and I'd earn $7,000 more per year in California,
plus I'd get a car," Stolberg said.
He said he was asked to apply for the California position, which
similar to his current job, when it became apparent the Golden State's
voters would approve tribal casinos.
Stolberg said he'll be able to earn regular pay increases as
agents' salaries topping out at more than $60,000 per year.
"All things being equal, I'd like to stay in Nevada," he explained.
a good job I have here, but I just want to earn more money."
The Venetian's Director of Compliance, Julie Damavandi, expressed
similar rationale for her decision to leave the control board in
A single mother with two children, one of whom was ready to
college, Damavandi said she couldn't afford to stay at the board,
where she'd worked as an investigations agent for more than two years.
"Every paycheck was a struggle," Damavandi said. "I was very
happy with my
job, but I would have only received a 2.5 percent pay raise, and The
offered me more than 30 percent more than I was making."
Damavandi now helps The Venetian comply with the same federal
regulations she used to investigate others for breaking.
Board member Bobby Siller said in May that retaining the board's
was the biggest challenge facing Nevada gaming regulators.
"They are grossly underpaid," Siller said.
Siller noted at the time that he and the other board members
the need for better agent pay to Gov. Kenny Guinn and his staff, and
expected significant salary increases to be approved when the governor
legislature write a new budget next year.
DuCharme said Guinn has been supportive, and believes the governor
all he can to increase agents' salaries.
"We need at least a 15 percent kicker to our agents' salaries
remain competitive," DuCharme said. "We've got a tremendous brain
drain, and it's not going to stop unless the salaries are substantially
DuCharme's concern for the employees he leads and the agency
to leave couldn't mask the ironic note he struck at September's Nevada
Station Casinos Chairman Frank Fertitta III explained to commissioners
considering his company's staffing plans for the newly acquired Santa
Station that his company tries to promote from within, and that it
considers its employee talent pool a "farm team" to use for
When Station Casinos Executive Vice President and General Counsel
Nielson later told the commission that several National Indian Gaming
Commission investigators working on the company's deal with the United
Auburn Indian tribe to build a casino in California's Gold Country
former Nevada Gaming Control Board investigators, DuCharme had a
"Mr. Fertitta's not the only one with a farm team," the chairman
shaking his head.
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