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Gaming Guru

Richard N. Velotta

Control Board Member Offers Regulation Lesson

19 April 2005

Keeping up with rapidly changing technology is the biggest challenge facing gaming regulators, a state Gaming Control Board member told a class of UNLV law students Monday.

Bobby Siller, who spent 25 years with the FBI before being appointed to the board in 1999, talked about his role on the board alongside two attorneys, Chairman Dennis Neilander and the board's newest member, Mark Clayton, in a wide-ranging presentation about his experiences on the board.

"It's little things like the Internet and little things like ticket-in (slot machines) that make it interesting," Siller said.

Internet gambling, he said, is getting even more interesting with Great Britain moving to legalize it.

Meanwhile, it's illegal for U.S. residents to gamble online -- but that doesn't stop Americans from wagering at offshore Internet casinos.

"I'd bet that you could go to any dorm on this campus and find people who are playing online," Siller said.

U.S. laws are geared toward blocking Internet gambling by penalizing companies that operate Web sites. Prosecutors rarely go after players.

Although online casino wagering is illegal, Siller said it doesn't help that American laws send mixed signals to the public. He said that while the public is forbidden from sports betting and casino wagering online it's legal to wager on horse racing over the Internet as long as the state where the race is staged and the state in which the bettor lives have an agreement regarding off-track wagering.

Siller said he is concerned that people who wager with offshore Web casinos may someday lose their money to an unscrupulous operator. He described how it would be easy for an offshore casino to seek money on deposit from bettors, operate a loose casino that draws even more players and then a sudden shut-down with the operators getting away with millions of dollars.

"What would (players) do, go to the police and say, 'I was playing illegally at an offshore casino and I want my money back?' " he said.

Siller said many of the innovations that come to the board for consideration require having an open mind.

He referenced the recent introduction of Senate Bill 444, a measure that would allow gaming licensees to charge admission to areas where gaming is allowed.

"We have to look at it and say, 'Maybe we ought to rethink this,' " he said. "If the surveillance is in place and audits can be completed properly and if that's where the young people go, why not put a gaming device in an area where admission is charged?"

Siller also said he went though his own learning curve when he became a member of the board and that he has relied on his experience in law enforcement to ask the right questions in suitability hearings of potential licensees. He said attorneys representing applicants should allow their clients to talk so that he can reach his own comfort level with a potential licensee.