Gaming board workshop seeks ways to speed up technology approval process
There was one word in Gov. Joe Lombardo’s January State of the State address that specifically caught the attention of Gaming Control Board Chairman Kirk Hendrick.
During the speech, Lombardo took the unusual step of calling out the board’s testing lab, saying that “concerns have surfaced” over the approval process. The governor said new gaming products were being introduced “with more speed outside of Nevada,” which gives other casino states a competitive advantage in the opinion of casino operators.
“We need to work with the control board to ensure the logjam is cleared,” Lombardo said.
Fast forward two months, and the board is set to tackle the issue raised by Lombardo through a public workshop session on Tuesday in Las Vegas, a meeting that Hendrick described as an open discussion on ways the agency can “modernize the technology division” and efficiently handle the approval process in the board’s test lab.
The coming meeting at the Grant Sawyer Building is viewed as an initial step in addressing casino industry concerns raised by the governor in January over the time it takes for Nevada to approve new slot machines and associated gaming equipment, such as cashless payment technology.
“I decided the best way to tackle the issues is to get everyone together and freely exchange ideas and solutions,” Hendrick said.
The workshop is expected to be well-attended by representatives from the gaming industry suppliers along with Daron Dorsey, executive director of the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers (AGEM), the industry’s trade organization.
“It’s been a long time since anybody thought about this in Nevada,” Dorsey said. “Imagine the speed of technology and what gaming has done just in the last eight years. We want to provide some information and details and give an overview of what it looks like at a macro level.”
In 2015, the Nevada Gaming Commission adopted several regulation modifications four months after they were recommended by the Legislature that were viewed as ways to streamline the procedures. Since that time, multiple states and tribal gaming authorities made changes that speeded up the introduction of new gaming technology in markets outside Nevada.
Following the speech, Lombardo appointed two of the three control board members, Hendrick as chairman and former Las Vegas Judge George Assad. The governor also named former Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki to the gaming commission, which makes the final decision on recommendations that come from the board.
Hendrick said in an interview with The Nevada Independent last month that the governor’s use of the word “logjam” got his attention. He said a public workshop offers a forum for the industry to propose ideas on how to accelerate the process.
“By understanding everyone’s goals and objectives, I’m sure we can find ways to more expeditiously regulate the industry,” Hendrick said in an email. “While the board should never substitute effective regulation for expedited regulation, the two goals should co-exist.”
Hendrick anticipates that some of the suggestions would require changes in regulations.
“However, I am personally looking for ideas that can be implemented much faster, without the need for new regulations,” he said.
Jim Barbee, chief of the control board’s technology division for more than a decade, declined comment on the workshop, saying he would defer to Hendrick’s remarks.
Changes in 2015 brought new technology
In October 2015, the control board and gaming commission adopted amendments to three gaming regulations viewed as a way to “facilitate entry of new concepts and technology into Nevada,” according to a memo signed by then-control board Chairman A.G. Burnett.
He also suggested manufacturers coordinate with the technology division early in the development process on how the concept or technology would fit into Nevada’s regulatory structure.
Burnett, now a gaming attorney with McDonald Carano in Reno, said the changes eight years ago “were a good first step” in encouraging communication between the industry and the regulators.
“The world has changed,” Burnett said in an interview. “You fast forward to today and there is the advent of all kinds of new gaming products, and [there are] new entrants into the market that are offering different solutions for gaming companies. The companies want to use those solutions, but they want to do it quickly.”
Burnett said the governor and the board were taking the correct steps in reviewing the process.
“I'm hopeful the industry and the control board and commission can come together and allow for continued innovation,” he said.