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Cy Ryan

Gaming control cuts may hurt state's bottom line

23 February 2009

CARSON CITY, Nevada — Audits to see whether Nevada's biggest casinos are paying all the taxes the law requires will happen less frequently under a proposed staff cut at the Gaming Control Board.

The physical presence of enforcement agents at casinos will also be reduced.

The Control Board, which has 460 employees to police Nevada's biggest industry, would lose 32 positions under Gov. Jim Gibbons' proposed budget.

The current annual budget of $43.5 million would be reduced by 12 percent next fiscal year and an additional 1.2 percent in fiscal 2011.

Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander told the Assembly Ways and Means Committee on Friday that most of the employee reductions would come in the audit and enforcement divisions.

The audit division conducts an examination of major casinos every 2.3 years. The loss of the staff would push that to every three years. The audits can determine if a casino hasn't paid enough taxes or is due a refund.

"Usually we're assessing more taxes," he said. "It's not normally because there is any intention to not pay the correct amount. It's because someone along the line made a mistake."

Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said it doesn't make sense to cut the audit division, which can generate extra money for the state.

On the enforcement side, Neilander said, the loss of enforcement agents will mean a smaller presence in casinos, where they resolve disputes between patrons and the casino over payouts, among other things.

I'm "not sure how we will deal with it," he said of the proposed reduced enforcement staff.

Neilander said he started to hold positions vacant a year ago as the economy softened and now has 27 vacant positions.