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Jane Ann Morrison

County delays action on slot parlor rules

8 May 2014

LAS VEGAS -- The name Dotty’s wasn’t mentioned once by Clark County commissioners as they tried Wednesday to tweak an ordinance that might stop the proliferation of slot parlors. But it was the popularity of Dotty’s Gaming &Spirits that caused the county and the state to explore ways to rein in Dotty’s in its tracks without hurting taverns.

Despite a lively discussion and disagreements, commissioners resolved nothing. Instead, they decided to wait until the Nevada Gaming Commissioners revisit the issue May 22.

The county will look at its own ordinance again on June 3.

But a large turnout of tavern owners who fear their operations would be hurt by any changes prompted several commissioners to state their positions clearly.

The county’s inability to define when gaming is “incidental” to other operations has created a situation where tavern owners fear being driven out of business by more specific rules. A 90-day moratorium on tavern licenses was enacted March 18, so people trying to move forward with taverns are stymied until this is resolved.

Tom Gallagher, a former Democratic congressional candidate in 2004, spoke against the idea of defining “incidental” by using a revenue percentage cap. He said at his son’s tavern some years the food and beverage sales are 55 percent and some years food and beverage makes up 40 percent of the revenues.

“If you want to talk about gaming being incidental (to taverns), they’re not,” he said.

The room was crowded Tuesday night, with nearly half the audience there to hear about taverns and the other half to hear about medical marijuana.

Commissioner Tom Collins won a hearty round of applause from tavern types, saying “We’re interfering selectively in businesses.”

Collins said the concept of grandfathering in existing taverns needs to be respected. His rhetorical question, “How much do we continue to disrupt an industry because of one business?” was the only reference to Dotty’s.

Aside from setting a revenue standard that would separate a slot parlor, which generally offers little besides slots, from a tavern, which offers food and drinks, Commissioner Larry Brown suggested the county could define a tavern.

Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani opposed Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak’s suggestion of a revenue standard but said county bureaucrats could use a picture to show design standards to separate a slot parlor from a tavern. A onetime bartender herself, she said revenue caps will not work and “will put most people out of business.”

When gaming regulators wrestled with setting standards for slot parlors in 2011, the tavern industry aligned with the major locals casinos, including Station Casinos. The locals casino chain didn’t like the competition from Dotty’s, where the customers tended to be more mature women who feel safe in the Dotty’s style operation decorated with knickknacks.

Sisolak, the strongest opponent of slot parlors, said he’s visited one and asked for food, and the attendant told him he’d get better food by going to 7-Eleven next door. He said that indicated food and beverage was incidental to the business.