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Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz

Gaming Commission shuffle: Bernhard resigning, Alamo new chairman, Mulroy on board

19 June 2014

LAS VEGAS -- Nevada Gaming Commission and Control Board Chairman Peter Bernhard, who has overseen the casino industry’s regulatory panel for nearly 13 years, was to resign following Wednesday’s meeting in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas physician Tony Alamo Jr., a member of the commission since 2008, was named chairman by Gov. Brian Sandoval on Wednesday.

Former Southern Nevada Water Authority General Manager Pat Mulroy, who retired in February, was named to the commission by Sandoval to fill out the last 10 months of Bernhard’s term.

Alamo, 50, whose father was a longtime casino industry executive, is the first non-attorney to head the part-time panel that meets monthly and rules on recommendations made by the full-time Gaming Control Board.

Before joining the gaming commission in 2008, Alamo spent seven years as a member of Nevada Athletic Commission.

“Having grown up in Las Vegas, I understand the importance of this position and the importance of the gaming industry,” Alamo said. “My regulatory experience, as well as the last six years working with fellow commissioners, has given me the knowledge and ability to help lead the commission.”

Bernhard, 65, a Las Vegas attorney, has been chairman of the five-person panel since September 2001 and held the seat longer than any previous chairman. He was first appointed by Gov. Kenny Guinn and reappointed by Gov. Jim Gibbons and Sandoval.

Bernhard actually replaced Sandoval as chairman when the current governor resigned to run for attorney general.

Members of the Gaming Commission earn $40,000 a year. The chairman earns $55,000 a year. The salary levels have not changed since 1995.

Bernhard said Wednesday he decided earlier this year not to seek reappointment as chairman when his four-year term expired in April.

Rather than wait until the middle of 2015 Legislative session, Bernhard decided to step away now so that a new chairman could work with Gaming Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett in setting the agency’s legislative agenda.

“The new chairman needs to be involved in the bill drafting process,” Bernhard said Wednesday. “There was never really a right or wrong time to do this.”

Bernhard said Alamo was good choice to head the panel because, “he’s younger, he understands social media, and he was ready and willing to serve.”

Bernhard’s tenure as chairman buffered the casino’s industry’s downturn following the 9/11 terrorists attacks that virtually halted travel across the U.S., and the subsequent recovery that saw state gaming revenue reach an all-time high of $12.8 billion in 2007.

He was also chairman of the commission during some of casino industry’s major events, including the multibillion-dollar buyouts of Caesars Corp. by the then-Harrah’s Entertainment, and Mandalay Resort Group by the then-MGM Mirage Corp.

Bernhard’s commission also approved the private equity buyouts of several gaming companies, including the $30 billion sale of Caesars Entertainment.

The commission under Bernhard licensed CityCenter in 2009, the most expensive single gaming development ever built.

Bernhard oversaw the commission’s suitability findings of Dubai World, MGM Resorts International partner Pansy Ho and most recently Malaysia-based Genting Berhad, which will build the $4 billion Resorts World Las Vegas.

The last few years of Bernhard’s chairmanship saw the casino industry recover from the recession. The Gaming Commission approved several bankruptcy restructurings and also licensed the nation’s first real-money online poker operations.

“Pete has served the commission with great distinction for over 12 years, and his unmatched knowledge and expertise will be sorely missed,” Sandoval said in a statement.

As for Alamo, Sandoval said the new chairman’s “background and experience chairing several state commissions will ensure a smooth transition for the Gaming Commission and its effective regulation of the gaming industry.”

Mulroy headed the Water Authority since 1993 and was general manager of the Las Vegas Valley Water District from 1989 until February.

Sandoval said he was “confident that she will make a great addition and bring a unique perspective to the commission.”
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