At Nevada Legislature, changing technology also means changing definitions in gaming statutes

At Nevada Legislature, changing technology also means changing definitions in gaming statutes

  • John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports
February 25, 2021 1:00 AM
  • John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports

As I watched the live feed of the Assembly Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday morning at the Nevada Legislature, I couldn’t help wondering where we would be without all our technology. That sense of reliance has only been enhanced during the coronavirus pandemic.

Nevada Gaming Control Board Member Phil Katsaros

The State Legislature is back in session but is only available to most of us by watching its Internet feed or via its Youtube channel. It’s simple enough to do, and until the Governor’s COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, it’s just about the best we can do to keep the wheels of the session turning with something approaching transparency.

The hearing itself focused on the language of Assembly Bills 7 and 8, which propose a number of refinements, updating definitions, and commonsense tweaks to current gaming regulations in a variety of areas. The committee is chaired by Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Steve Yeager, D-Las Vegas.

Nevada’s casino regulatory interests were presented by Gaming Control Board Member Phil Katsaros, who brings a blend of experience to the duty after being appointed in March 2019 by Gov. Steve Sisolak. Katsaros was ably aided by Gaming Control Board Senior Research Specialist Michael Morton.

This is familiar turf for both men. Morton is a former senior deputy with the Legislative Counsel Bureau. Katsaros began his career with the Control Board as an agent in the Tax and License Division and later worked in the Corporate Securities Division. On the industry side, he was the CEO and a director for Certus Gaming USA, Inc., a gaming systems supplier with an international reach. He also helped to develop Inspired Gaming’s Virtual Sports and has substantial experience in regulatory and technical compliance.

In the rapidly evolving world of gaming, he’s sure to make use of every bit of that experience. He spent much of the hearing explaining to committee members live feed how the goal of the bills was largely to clean up the regulatory language to fit the changes in the industry. It’s a brave new world of electronic signatures and cashless systems.

Katsaros called most of it housekeeping, but committee members wouldn’t be blamed for concluding that the house in question is getting more high-tech than ever.

One area of interest concerned a seemingly minor change to the definition of “credit instrument” to record gambling markers. One of the goals of the bills is to change the definition of those traditional ink-on-paper markers signed by the player as evidence of a gambling debt owed to a nonrestricted gaming license holder. The revision expands the definition of a credit instrument to include an electronic signature to verify the existence of the debt.

Changing the word from “writing” to “record” will allow for electronic credit instruments, specifically markers, officials said. In an increasingly digital world, that only makes sense.

It was also a reminder that although Nevada has been in the legal and regulated gambling business longer than any other state, the technology never sleeps. The regulatory apparatus at times has to scramble to keep up.

One is the increased use of slot machine-style vouchers for use in other areas of the casino. As the games take on an increasingly digital form, adjustments are being made that are addressed in part in AB8.

Section 2 of the bill amends the definition of ‘gaming employee’ in the statute to include those employees that are required to register to operate as a cash access and wagering service provider. It will be up to the Nevada Gaming Commission to determine who will actually need to register. As the Control Board had already required the registration, the proposed changes are meant merely to bring the language of the statute into an agreement with the working definition in practice between the chapters of the statute.

One proposed change that was sure to catch the attention of committee members was the proposed change in the definition of “gross revenue” in the area of interactive gaming, essentially online poker such as it exists in Nevada and elsewhere. Chairman Yeager wondered aloud whether such a change would have a measurable fiscal impact on gaming revenues in a state so heavily reliant on them.

Although Katsaros said he hadn’t actually looked at the potential fiscal impact statement would say, he offered, “I would say in my personal view, minimal or nothing. Interactive poker, at this point, it’s not as if it’s a flourishing sort of product out there right now. There’s minimal activity out there. Any benefit that we get from interactive gaming right now ultimately would very likely flow down to the actual brick-and-mortar location, as it were anyway.”

Morton, the stickler for technical detail, reminded the committee that the proposed changes were meant to put the regulatory language and its many definitions in agreement. The changes being discussed are being made to clarify the at times confusing and outdated language.

Online poker revenues? Yeager had to smile at the thought.

“I think we’re all crossing our fingers in terms of online poker that Pennsylvania hopefully comes on line soon and signs a compact and maybe Michigan and some other states,” Yeager said. “So hopefully we’ll have this conversation two years from now and we’re talking about the boom in internet poker around the country. I’m hopeful. But I’ve been hopeful for about six years now and we’re still here. We’ll see how things play out in those other states.”

That’s the thing about technology the brave new world taking place inside the casino industry. It’s still driven by the customer.

John L. Smith is a longtime Las Vegas columnist and author. Contact him at On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith.