Friday, 9th March 2001 


    If bosses of Strip megaresorts get their way, they'll soon be able to offer private gambling areas to their top high rollers.
    Prompted by a desire to compete with private gaming areas in Europe, Asia and Connecticut, casino operators are pushing a proposed state law to permit the practice.
   "We've had (high rollers) tell us that until they can have exclusivity, they're not going to
come to Las Vegas," said MGM Mirage Vice Chairman Dan Wade said. "They want privacy and security, but in Las Vegas their play can be witnessed by anybody. They say, 'My play is nobody's business but my own.' "

    Nevada law currently mandates that casino gambling be "wide-open" to the public.
    But that would change if the Legislature and Republican Gov. Kenny Guinn OK Senate Bill 283, which was recently introduced by Sen. Mark James, R-Las Vegas.
   "The idea sounds like it has merit," James said, noting that although he introduced the
measure he hasn't decided his position on the proposal. "I'm keeping an open mind."
   Guinn spokesman Jack Finn said his boss hasn't taken a position on the measure.
   James introduced the bill at the request of the Nevada Resort Association, the casino
industry's Carson City lobbying arm.

    The measure would allow casinos to restrict admission to gambling areas based on specific financial criteria, such as the size of a bettor's bets or credit line.
    The bill mandates that table games must be offered in any private gaming areas and slot
machine wagers must each be at least $500 a pull.
    Wade said there may only be a couple of hundred people in the world who would take advantage of such private areas, with most coming from Europe and Asia.
    "But these players will generate huge (betting) volumes," he added.
    Wade suggested that MGM Mirage casinos would probably limit gamblers who use the private rooms to anyone who bets more than $10,000 a hand.

    The current state regulation mandating wide-open gaming notes that the practice was adopted "to insure that gaming is conducted honestly, competitively, and free of criminal and corruptive elements...."
    Nevada Resort Association President Bill Bible, an ardent enforcer of wide-open gaming when he chaired the Nevada Gaming Control Board throughout most of last decade, said he's changed his mind about private gambling. His former agency regulates the state's casino industry.
   "Times have changed," Bible said. "I think regulatory and security concerns (making sure state taxes are paid and games are fair) can be met with technology."
    One of the most significant changes could come from any additional gaming tax revenue
generated by increased business to Nevada casinos.

   "It allows our jurisdiction to remain competitive," Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Brian Sandoval said.
    Sandoval, who supports James' bill, said it would take state regulators three or four months to adopt regulations if the Legislature passes the bill and Guinn were to sign it.
    Sandoval, control board Chairman Dennis Neilander and casino industry officials, among others, will be asked to testify during Judiciary Committee hearings on the measure, James noted.
    The bill also would require that:

  •   The control board approve financial requirements for admission to private casinos.
  • Admission cannot be denied because of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, age or sex.
  • Casinos pay a $5,000 application fee to the control board and reimburse the agency for its investigation of any application.
    University of Nevada, Las Vegas Professor Bill Thompson said the legislative proposal makes sense in light of competitive challenges from international casinos.
   "What changed my mind was when Foxwoods opened its closed gaming area," Bible said of the Connecticut tribal casino. "The market is changing, and Nevada and Atlantic City are no longer the only domestic venues. Not only does Nevada need to attract new (high-rolling) visitors, but it needs to retain the ones who already visit."
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