January 28th, 2000

Critics: Gaming Commission's Slots for Tots Rules Fall Short

By David Strow
Las Vegas Sun

So-called “slots for tots” were outlawed Thursday by the Nevada Gaming Commission, but critics say new state rules are inadequate and still want a congressional investigation.

Thursday’s long-awaited regulations make Nevada the first state in the nation to formally ban the use of such themes in its casinos.

“This is a remarkable and landmark day,” said commission Chairman Brian Sandoval. “We have sent a message nationally that Nevada is able to regulate itself.

The regulation became effective upon its passage.

Compared to the contentious debates seen as the regulation was drafted over the last four months, Thursday’s approval came with little fanfare or fireworks.

“I think we came out with something that protects the industry and, more importantly, the children,” said Sara Beth Brown, general counsel of slot machine maker International Game Technology. “IGT accepts this regulation.  This regulation does provide a more precise procedure ... but experience is the only thing that will determine how effective it is.

“This is another validation of the wisdom of the National Gambling Impact Study Commission when it said that gaming regulation should be reserved for the states.”

Under the new regulation, no slot machine “derived from or based on a product that is currently and primarily intended or marketed for use by persons under 21 years of age” will be permitted for use in Nevada.

The regulation will apply solely to new products and will not affect any game that’s already been approved. Companies whose themes are rejected have the right to appeal the decision to the Nevada Gaming Control Board and the commission after paying a $500 fee.

To help define what is and isn’t appropriate, the regulation relies on rating schemes as guidelines. Movies rated “G,” for example, would be prohibited.  So would TV shows with a rating of “TV-Y” or “TV-G,” children’s literature and board games intended for children.

Even if regulators approve a game, they may set provisions that restrict the location of the game, or the hours in which it may be used.

There is one major catch that would allow many controversial themes to remain on casino floors. Under the regulation, the rating-based bans would not apply to intellectual property created more than 21 years ago. Moreover, the regulation states that regulators will give consideration to the nostalgic value of a theme.

Under these provisions, slot machines themed on the board game “Monopoly” —a game that’s come under attack by industry critics—would receive approval, said Nevada Gaming Control Board Chairman Steve DuCharme.

“It’s a board game that does appeal to people over the age of 21,” DuCharme said. “People of all ages play that game.”

Although the regulation was designed to give discretionary power to regulators, it still drew fire from industry critics because it doesn’t specifically ban many controversial themes. They say they’ll press forward for a federal investigation of slot machines, regardless of the new regulation.

“It sounds to me like there’s more holes than cheese,” said Gary Ruskin, director of Washington, D.C.-based Commercial Alert. “It sounds like there are more loopholes than you’d need to drive a Mack truck packed with child-enticing slot machines through.”

Ruskin’s Ralph Nader-backed group helped convince presidential candidate and Arizona Sen. John McCain to call for a Senate probe of child-enticing slots.  Ruskin reiterated that call Thursday.

“Nevada’s not the only state in the country where these games will be deployed,” Ruskin said. “That’s the more compelling reason why we’ll press on.”

Sandoval responded that any game that appealed to children would be cut off by a “primarily intended or marketed” for children clause, regardless of whether or not it was not covered by the specific bans.

“They have to confront that final standard,” Sandoval said. “In my mind, that’s a pretty strong standard they have to overcome.”

An example is a slot machine based on the raunchy TV cartoon show “South Park”—a game already withdrawn by maker IGT. That would pass muster under a literal reading of the guidelines, since it is rated “TV-MA.” But DuCharme said he’d probably still be opposed to the theme, because he considers it something primarily marketed to children.

“That’s one of the devices that would be open to different viewpoints,” DuCharme said. “They could come in and make the argument that ... although it is popular with people under the age of 21, it is primarily marketed to persons over the age of 21.”

Though IGT could appeal that ruling, it has no plans to do so, said Ed Rogich, IGT’s vice president of marketing. Rogich said IGT doesn’t plan to submit the game in Nevada or any other state in the near future.

“Ultimately, they have the power of the pen to simply say, ‘We don’t feel good about it,”’ Rogich said.

Black Book addition

In other actions Thursday, the commission:

# Added convicted bookmaker Peter Jay Lenz to Nevada’s “Black Book.”

Lenz, convicted three times in 16 years for running bookmaking operations in San Diego and Phoenix, was nominated for the Black Book by the Nevada Gaming Control Board in July. The board decided to nominate Lenz because investigations showed he had been running large amounts of bets covertly through legal Nevada sports books.

“That’s where the threat comes in,” said Deputy Attorney General Keith Kizer. “He has a clear pattern of utilizing legal Las Vegas casinos to facilitate his activities.”

Lenz was not in attendance, and did not attempt to contest the ruling. Kizer said it is believed that Lenz has since moved from San Diego to Bermuda.

With the addition, Lenz became the 34th current member of the state’s Black Book. Anyone in Nevada’s Black Book is prohibited from entering any establishment in the state offering gaming.

# Approved a manufacturing, distribution and slot route operators license for Konami Gaming Inc. The company, a Las Vegas-based subsidiary of Japanese video game giant Konami Co. Ltd., will begin selling video-based slot machines to the American and European gaming industry. The company expects to initially employ 100 in Las Vegas.

# Approved a distributor and slot route operator license for City Stop Gaming INc., 4534 W. Hacienda Ave., Las Vegas. Awarded officers licenses to Rory Bedore, president, and Bruce Familian, secretary.

# Increased the number of authorized slot machines for Gold Rush Casino, 1195 W. Sunset Road, Henderson. The number of machines allowed was increased from 125 to 199, plus one live keno game.

# Awarded a manufacturing and distributor license to Showcase Slots and Antiquities, 4305 S. Industrial Road, Suite B110, Las Vegas. Awarded licenses to Peter Castiglia, president, and Barbara Castiglia, secretary.

# Approved a distributor license for Thalman Financial Group Inc., 15954 Chiwi Road, Apple Valley, Calif. Awarded licenses to Andrew Thorn, president, and Stacy Thorn, director.

# Approved a nonrestricted gaming license for Green Valley Gaming, doing business at the Mizpah Casino, 100 N. Main St., Tonopah. License limited to 50 slot machines.  Approved contract with William Allison Sr., a denied applicant, on the grounds that Allison have no involvement with the gaming operations.

# Approved the transfer of stock in Best Bet Products Inc., 2910 S. Highland Drive, Suite M, Las Vegas. Linton Mathews transferred 308,750 shares to the company.

# Awarded a key employee license to George Thompson, general manager of Ernie’s Casino, 1901 N. Rancho Drive, Las Vegas.

# Approved key employee licenses for two executives at Silicon Gaming Inc., 2800 Bayshore Road, Palo Alto, Calif. Licenses awarded to Andrew Pascal, president, and Paul Mathews, controlling shareholder.

# Approved the transfer of securities in Exber Inc., 18 E. Fremont St., Las Vegas. One share of stock transferred from Edward Quinn to the company.

# Approved a nonrestricted gaming license for the operation of a race and sports book to American Wagering Inc., doing business at Pot O’ Gold Race and Sportsbook, 120 Market St., Henderson.

# Approved an application to share in revenues from off-track pari-mutuel race wagering from Wichita Greyhound Park, 1500 E. 77th St., Valley Center, Kan.

# Approved restricted gaming licenses for City Stop Gaming Inc., doing business at: City Stop I, 5095 S. Decatur Blvd., Las Vegas; City Stop II, 971 S. Boulder Hwy., Henderson; City Stop III, 1680 W. Sunset Road, Henderson.

# Approved a restricted gaming license for Runway 21, 4955 E. Craig Road, # 15, Las Vegas. Approved member-manager licenses for Lloyd Henderson, George Jablon and Linda Jablon.

# Approved a two-year restricted gaming license for Southwest Gaming Services Inc., doing business at Casa Mercado Mexican Restaurant & Cantina, 4500 E. Sunset Road #36, Henderson.

# Approved a restricted gaming license for Mickey’s Cues & Brews, 7380 S. Eastern Ave. #104, Las Vegas. Awarded licenses to Michael Gresser, president, and Robin Bisbing, shareholder.

# Approved a restricted gaming license for the Junkyard, 2327 S. Eastern Ave., Las Vegas.

# Approved a transfer of 33.33 percent interest in Short Line Express Market, 5601 N. Tenaya Way #105, Las Vegas, from Duane Shields to the Duane L. Shields and Mary Ellen Shields Family Trust. Approved the transfer of 16.67 percent interest in Short Line from Amelia Morton to the AMS 1998 Trust, Robert Morton, beneficiary. Approved a director’s license for Robert Morton.

# Approved a restricted gaming license for Sunset Lounge, 2301 E. Sunset Road # 12-17, Las Vegas. Approved licenses for Jeffery Taylor, president, and Willis Gabbard, shareholder.

# Approved a key employee license for Vincent Salmu, manager of Inn Zone Desert Inn, 2542 E. Desert Inn Road, Las Vegas.

# Approved restricted gaming licenses to Green Valley Gaming, doing business at: Big Daddy’s, 3111 S. Valley View Blvd. #M105, Las Vegas; 5 & Diner Restaurant, 1825 E. Flamingo Road, Las Vegas; 5 & Diner Restaurant, 375 N. Stephanie St. #311, Henderson; 5 & Diner Restaurant, 8820 S. Eastern Ave., Las Vegas; 5 & Diner Restaurant, 6840 W. Sahara Ave., Las Vegas; and El Taquito Mexican Restaurant, 2350 E. Bonanza Road, Las Vegas.

# Approved a restricted gaming license for Value Market, 1510 E. Sahara Ave., Las Vegas.

# Approved a restricted gaming license to Cavalier Lounge, 3850 E. Desert Inn Road, Las Vegas. Awarded a member-manager license to Adam Corrigan.

# Approved a transfer of 50 percent interest in Idle Spurs, 1113 Rainbow Blvd., Las Vegas, from the estate of Raymond Wills to Barbara Wills. Approved license for joint tenant status with Barbara Wills to Theresa Wing at Idle Spurs.

# Approved a restricted gaming license to American Mini Market, 2564 N. Las Vegas Blvd. Awarded a license to Souhail Faranesh, president and sole shareholder.

# Approved a restricted gaming license to Jack’s Place, 5067 E. Bonanza Road # 5071, Las Vegas.

# Approved a restricted gaming license for Oasis Discount Liquors, 897 Mesquite Blvd., Mesquite.

# Approved a restricted gaming license for 7-Eleven Store #32780, 2490 Horizon Ridge Pkwy., Henderson.

# Approved the issuance of 39.99 percent interest in Shuck’s Tavern, 2090 E.  Serene Ave., Las Vegas, to members Robert Buist, Steven Meatovich and Richard Winzen. Approved licenses for Buist, Meatovich and Winzen.

# Approved a restricted gaming license for Maxi Market, 2212 E. Charleston Blvd., Las Vegas. Approved licenses to Ismail Israel and Khoshaba Israel, partners.

# Approved a restricted gaming license to Three Angry Wives Pub, 2634 W. Horizon Ridge Pkwy., Henderson. Awarded licenses to Sean Higgins, president, Kevin Kiggins, secretary, and Gerald Higgins, vice president.

# Approved a restricted gaming license to 7-Eleven Store #15449, 3589 N. Nellis Blvd., Las Vegas.

# Approved a key employee license for Wanda Flangas, manager of Bullfeathers Lounge, 3787 E. Lake Mead Blvd., Las Vegas.

# Approved a restricted gaming license to Southwest Gaming Services, doing business at the Roadhouse Grill, 4945 W. Tropicana Ave., Las Vegas.

# Approved a restricted gaming license to Cardivan Co., doing business at Maria’s Market, 2500 E. Cheyenne Ave., North Las Vegas.

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