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Gaming Guru

James DeHaven

Las Vegas City Council again fails to rule on Dotty's tavern license application

9 November 2015

Las Vegas City Council members last week again put off approval of a gaming license sought by Dotty's — which critics have labeled slot parlor operators. It was the second time in four months that they failed to take action on the item.

But it wasn't for a lack of effort.

They cast no fewer than six separate votes Wednesday to deny, approve or abey the company's application for a permanent tavern-restricted land use license at its location near Hualapai Way and Sahara Avenue.

At times, council members appeared to founder in a torrent of advice from attorneys and lobbyists as they hurriedly toggled between yes and no votes — sometimes on the same motion — before finally settling on an abeyance.

Ill-fated attempts to resolve the license application came after months of discussion and a pair of lengthy staff reports surrounding the question of whether Dotty's — which serves food and drinks but makes most of its money through slot machines — can be properly classified as a tavern operation.

Nevada law, with city codes, require non-casino gaming revenue to be "incidental" to a bar, restaurant or convenience store's operations.

Casino companies and local government critics have for years accused Dotty's of shirking that rule and running its businesses more like a strip mall slot arcade than a bar, a move they say has enabled the company to set up shop much closer to residential neighborhoods.

Councilman Bob Beers, a longtime critic of the company's business model, said Dotty's simply hasn't been playing by the rules.

His original motion to deny a permanent license sought by a Dotty's location in his ward failed on a 3-4 vote. It was followed by foiled moves to grant the company a six-month temporary license or else deny the license application outright.

Beers finally countered with a motion that would only allow Dotty's to operate seven slot machines at its Hualapai and Sahara location, fewer than half the total the company has been approved to operate at each of more than 100 locations around the state.

That proposal narrowly passed over objections from Dotty's lobbyists, thanks to surprise support from Councilman Ricki Barlow, who had opposed Beers' earlier motion to deny the license.

Mayor Carolyn Goodman called a brief recess, and it looked as if the matter had been put to bed.

Then Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian had the item reintroduced, citing the "arbitrary" number of slot machines awarded under the earlier approved license. The license approval failed upon reconsideration, earning support from only Beers and Councilman Stavros Anthony as Tarkanian withdrew backing for the move.

Goodman then launched a failed attempt to simply approve the license.

Eventually, City Attorney Brad Jerbic warned council members they were running out of ways to legally reconfigure a vote on the license, prompting Beers' successful motion to delay the item.

He and other city leaders hope to circle back to the matter, but perhaps spend a little less time going in circles, on Nov. 18.