Reno and Las Vegas Gaming Attorneys
Legal Guidance on One of Nevada’s Largest Industries
Gaming is a vital industry in Nevada. The industry is the state’s biggest employer, and its magnetic pull as a function of tourism supports countless other critical industries, including hospitality and food and beverage. Gaming regularly contributes over $10 billion in total revenue, with successful facilities throughout Reno, Las Vegas, and the broader Nevada area.
It can be tempting to enter Nevada’s gaming business, even as trends transform how the industry operates and diversifies its revenue streams. Doing so requires navigating the state’s strict regulations, including the obtaining of the appropriate licenses for your business. It is also important to pursue a sound strategy in an inarguably crowded marketplace that will be consistent with your goals and set you up for success.
Our Reno and Las Vegas gaming lawyers at Flynn | Giudici PLLC can help you break into the industry, working with the Nevada Gaming Commission to procure commercial clearances and ensuring your venture follows all local and state regulations. In situations where you have encountered roadblocks to getting the necessary permissions, our administrative legal services can be leveraged to negotiate directly with local authorities and resolve critical path conflicts.
Understanding Nevada Gaming Licenses
To operate a gaming establishment or otherwise participate in the supply or distribution of the gaming industry, you will need a license from the Nevada Gaming Commission. The type of license required will depend on the nature and scale of your business.
When considering whether to enter the gaming industry, you and your business partners will need to decide to what extent the role of gaming will play in your enterprise. Very few businesses exclusively deal in gaming. Even major casinos offer food and beverage, hospitality, or entertainment components to supplement their business and diversify income streams.
The key question to ask is whether gaming will be the primary element of your business. The answer to this question generally determines what type of license you will need. If you plan to build a casino with a litany of machines and table games, gaming is probably your company’s primary focus, especially if it is central to your advertising. Should you intend to run another type of business with gaming only involved as a supplementary feature, gaming could be interpreted as not the primary piece of your company.
If gaming is not central to your business, you will likely need a restricted gaming license to operate machines on the premises. It should be noted that, as the name would imply, these licenses are extremely limited in nature. A location with a restricted gaming license can operate up to 15 slot machines (or similar devices) on the premises at any one time.
An unrestricted gaming license allows for a greater number than 16 slot machines to operate at a location. It also allows for the mixing of other game types, including card games, table games, and sports pools. Note that an unrestricted license is always required if gaming is considered the facility’s primary business, even if the number of machines would otherwise only need a restricted permit. Hotel and resort facilities built around casino floors tend to require unrestricted licenses due to the number and variety of gaming opportunities. If you intend to manufacture or distribute gaming machines, you will also likely need an unrestricted license.
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Obstacles to Procuring Restricted Nevada Gaming Licenses
Acquiring a restricted or unrestricted Nevada gaming license is seldom an easy or convenient process. It requires the submitting of numerous complex forms and opening you and your business partners’ up to an investigation by the Nevada Gaming Commission. Many regulatory obstacles can also imperil the success of your application.
If you are interested in pursuing a restricted gaming license, you will need to measurably prove that gaming is not your primary mode of business. This will include providing plans that show the proportion of floor space dedicated to gaming versus the primary purpose of your endeavor, indicating the size of monetary investment in gaming machines versus that of the rest of your business, and a breakdown of time anticipated to be devoted to gaming versus other revenue streams.
Not every type of facility where gaming is secondary to the business will necessarily be granted a restricted license, even if they meet other qualifications. Restaurants, bars, pharmacies, and convenience stores with a handful of machines are often good candidates to receive the necessary permit. “Unsuitable” locations can include salons, gas stations, or areas where the presence of underage minors is frequent.
Any facility operating gaming machines must maintain a certain distance churches, playgrounds, schools, and other facilities where children tend to congregate. The exact limitations vary by local jurisdiction.
Once basic eligibility is established, you will need to submit an extensive application. Your submission will include names and personal information for you, your partners, and your investors, and the source of the business’s investments. You will also need to disclose any criminal or civil litigation history, provide character references, and information specific to your proposed business site.
After the Nevada Gaming Commission has processed your license, you will be summoned to appear at a public hearing. Our Reno and Las Vegas gaming attorneys can accompany you to this court appearance and assist in providing additional requested information or addressing any outstanding questions or objections.
At the conclusion of your hearing, you will learn if your business’s request for a restricted license was approved, rejected, or conditionally accepted. The entire process can take nearly a year, but our team can help you move through each step as efficiently as possible.
The Process of Acquiring an Unrestricted Nevada Gaming License
Obtaining an unrestricted Nevada gaming license is a protracted, often arduous process that will almost certainly require the assistance of legal professionals. Manufacturers and distributors of gaming equipment will need this license, as will shareholders in private companies involved in the gaming industry. Investors in publicly traded companies dealing in gaming only need an unrestricted license if they own 10% or more of total shares. Some high-level officers of publicly traded companies will also require this type of license.
Many parts of the process of applying for an unrestricted gaming license are similar to those of restricted licenses. You will need to submit an exhaustive level of documentation and personal information for everyone involved in the project. In addition, you will be expected to be participate in an in-person interview with a representative of the Nevada Gaming Commission, provide several years’ of detailed financial records, undergo a private regulatory investigation, and attending a board hearing.
The final hearing before the Nevada Gaming Commission will raise any potential problems identified in the investigation. You and your representation will also be compelled to make persuasive arguments on why your license should be approved.
Guiding You Through the ProcessOur team can guide you through the extensive process of applying for an unrestricted Nevada gaming license. Mounting a successful campaign will require strong argumentative skills and a deep knowledge of the state’s gaming regulatory requirements. We can audit you and your business partners’ financial histories to determine eligibility and flag any potential obstacles to a successful outcome. We can then proactively prepare strategies to best position you and your case.
Conflicts with the Nevada Gaming Commission
The Nevada Gaming Commission oversees all licensed gaming institutions in the state. Having a license is the first step to a project development, but numerous other laws and conditions must be followed and met. There are specific rules governing kitchen and bar layouts if your facility primarily serves alcohol, for example.
Failure to follow local and state laws can result in hefty citations or even the revocation of your gaming license. Our lawyers can represent you in disciplinary hearings or negotiations with the Nevada Gaming Commission and work to minimize any negative impact to your business. We can also work to ensure continued compliance with all laws and advise on potential vulnerabilities.
The Evolving Role of Nevada Gaming
It is important to understand how gaming has shifted in the state of Nevada and how changing trends and business shifts could impact your venture. For many years, Nevada held a monopoly on all gaming in the United States, allowing it to become an adult center of tourism. In more recent decades, other states began to permit gaming, diluting the state’s exclusivity, though it is still often considered the gaming capital of the country.
The economic crisis of 2008 and its ensuing recession revealed vulnerabilities to the gaming industry. Patrons became more infrequently and spent less on gaming on an industry-wide scale, forcing major players to adapt and diversify. Many successful gaming businesses now consider hospitality, food and beverage, and entertainment to be their primary sources of revenue, with gaming as a lucrative, if not central, component.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also inevitably impacted the gaming business. While many casinos and gaming facilities have been permitted to open with modified operating procedures in Nevada, total capacity, travel, and patronage are at historic lows. Because the crisis is ongoing and it is not altogether clear how and when it will be resolved, gaming remains a vulnerable business.
We do expect the gaming industry to recover when the pandemic ends, but until then, opening a new gaming business or procuring the necessary licenses will likely be a difficult endeavor. Our Reno and Las Vegas gaming lawyers at Flynn | Giudici PLLC are committed to helping existing and new entrants to the industry succeed. We can draw upon our business law experience to advise on when a return to gaming may make commercial sense and work to procure the appropriate licenses. Our team can continue to advocate for you by ensuring regulatory compliance and representing you in any conflicts with the Nevada Gaming Commission.