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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz

Gaming regulator comes full circle

5 January 2009

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- In a way, Mark Lipparelli is going back to his roots.

When he takes his seat next week on the three-member Gaming Control Board, Lipparelli will return to an agency where he began his career as a research and securities analyst.

In the years between, Lipparelli, 43, held a multitude of positions within the gaming equipment manufacturing sector. He said Friday that experience will come into use as the regulatory panel grapples with such issues as server-based slot machine technology and other new products.

Lipparelli was also involved in the public financial side, which he can draw upon as the control board takes up any number of expected casino company restructuring matters that may come.

"There are going to be some interesting challenges for the gaming industry," Lipparelli said. "That's what attracted me to this position."

Lipparelli, who was managing a startup technology company for more than a year, first approached Gov. Jim Gibbons' office about the control board opening in early December. Former control board member Mark Clayton told the governor's chief of staff in November he wouldn't seek reappointment to a new four-year term.

Lipparelli found out on New Year's Eve he was being appointed. He traveled back to Las Vegas from a family vacation Friday and is hoping to be up to speed by next week's meeting. Among the items on the panel's January agenda is the buyout of Cannery Casinos by Australia-based Crown Casinos and the licensing of the $1 billion M Resort, which is opening in the spring.

"To the degree I can get adequately prepared, I plan to participate," Lipparelli said. "I want to be fair to the applicants."

Nevada law covering the qualifications of the control board members calls for the panel to have a certified public accountant or someone with experience in corporate finance. A CPA hasn't sat on the control board since 1993. Lipparelli's seat has been held by an attorney over the last two terms.

However, observers said Lipparelli's background in the gaming industry met the state's qualification. He was an executive vice president with Bally Technologies with involvement in operations, corporate finance and investor relations for more than four years. He spent two years as president of Shuffle Master Gaming and he was the vice president of finance with Casino Data Systems for six years, a gaming technology company acquired by Aristocrat Technologies in 1999.

"In all my jobs, I've had extensive experience on the financial side and working with the investment community," Lipparelli said. "I think I have a good mix of experiences to draw upon."

Lipparelli said he would consult with the attorney general's office about voting on matters involving companies where he used to work. He believes enough time has expired that there wouldn't be a conflict.

The Gaming Control Board is the state's enforcement and investigative agency for gaming. The board makes recommendations on matters to the Nevada Gaming Commission. Its three members are full-time state employees. The control board position pays $125,112 annually.

Lipparelli will join control board Chairman Dennis Neilander, an attorney, and board member Randy Sayre, who had been the board's chief of investigations since Gibbons appointed him to the panel in 2007.

He will also be joining the board at a time when the agency is facing the potential of a 14 percent budget reduction, which could lead to gaming enforcement agent layoffs and staff reductions.

"I started my career at the control board," Lipparelli said. "I'm looking forward to going back."