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Rod Smith

Treasury Official Keeps Eye on Las Vegas

21 June 2004

The threat of terrorism crippling construction in Las Vegas and the potential for money laundering in casinos have made Las Vegas a unique focus of federal and state agencies, U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow told a business roundtable on Friday.

"Anywhere there are large volumes of cash payments and cash flows, we need to be alert," he said.

Snow was in Las Vegas to meet with Nevada Hotel and Lodging Association officials and conduct a business roundtable with hotel and casino executives.

Currency transactions drew particular attention in Las Vegas in 2003 when it was discovered that both MGM Mirage and Station Casinos failed to comply with federal and state reporting requirements.

Nevada Gaming Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander said in December the state was preparing new currency transaction regulations to ensure such oversights are not repeated.

Since then regulations have been drafted that could be applied to all 50 states, and are now being considered by the Treasury Department's Financial Crime Network, he said.

Neilander said his agency will not take action on the new regulations until it knows whether the Treasury Department wants to adopt them nationwide.

Although Snow did not discuss proposed regulatory changes, he did praise Las Vegas businesses for aggressively monitoring currency and possible terrorist activities.

"I'm pleased to see how alert local businesses are to making sure they don't become targets of terrorists and abuse of currency systems," he said.

While in Las Vegas, he also announced his department has decided to extend the "make available" provisions of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act through 2005, the third year of the federal Terrorism Risk Insurance Program.

The "make available" provisions of the federal program require that each insurer must make available, in all of its commercial property and casualty insurance policies, coverage for losses due to acts of terrorism on the same terms as losses from other events.

Snow said the program is particularly important to Las Vegas and other areas with substantial new construction under way and where there may be a danger of terrorist attacks.

"I hope that the terrorism insurance program helped Nevada regain its economic strength," he said.

Snow told business leaders here the terrorism risk insurance program has been an important confidence-builder for the economic recovery.

Primarily, Snow extolled the virtues of the economic recovery that is under way and the boost it has given the Las Vegas economy.

However, Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Authority Executive Vice President Rossi Ralenkotter wrapped up the program by pointing out that the debut of the new $100 bill and the Las Vegas centennial will coincide.

Snow accepted Ralenkotter's invitation to come back and unveil the bill new here, but wanted to know whose face Las Vegans would like to see on the currency.