Burnett leaving Nevada Gaming Control Board

Chairman A.G. Burnett, center, asks a question during a Nevada Gaming Control Board meeting at the Grant Sawyer State Building Wednesday, March 1, 2016.

Nevada’s point man in debates over gambling, e-sports, skill-based gaming, and other issues affecting the state’s largest industry is leaving his post.

A.G. Burnett is stepping down as the Nevada Gaming Control Board chairman for a job in the private sector effective Dec. 22, according to Gov. Brian Sandoval’s office.

The statement says Burnett will be joining McDonald Carano, a business law firm. The governor has not said when he will name a replacement.

Burnett said he will be work with gaming issues in his new position but can’t appear before the control board or Gaming Commission for a year because of state lobbyist laws.

Burnett, 48, said he had started thinking about leaving the state about a year ago.

“It was about this time last year,” he said. ”I had a long list of things I thought would be goals that we as the board should try and reach and I had really checked them all off up until when the legislature started.”

The passage of an assembly bill during the last legislative session on gaming technology, and the subsequent regulations the Board developed in its wake, were the last items on his list, Burnett said.

“I felt satisfied that the hard work of the board had culminated and we had put the board and the regulatory structure in a good position in addition to giving the industry the tools it had asked for to succeed with gaming and new technology,” he said.

Burnett began his career with the state working for the attorney general’s office as a lawyer representing the board, the Nevada Gaming Commission, and the Nevada Commission on Sports.

He left to work as deputy chief of the board’s Corporate Securities Division. In 2011, Gov. Brian Sandoval made him a member of the board and a year later, Sandoval asked Burnett to become the board chairman. In 2015, he was reappointed him to that role.

He’s dealt with a number of issues affecting the gaming industry, including the rise of daily fantasy sports, wagering on e-sports and skill based gaming, and the impacts of legalized medical and recreational marijuana.

Tony Alamo, chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission, which works closely with the board, said Burnett should be especially proud of his role in helping Nevada’s gaming regulations keep pace with e-sports, skill-based gaming and other changes in technology.

“He was fundamental in pushing that and fomenting those changes,” Alamo said.

Burnett also managed to get entangled in at least one of political controversy when he secretly taped a conversation he had with Nevada’s Attorney General Paul Laxalt. In May, Burnett testified before a Nevada legislative committee about how he recorded a March 2016 conversation with Laxalt about a lawsuit involving GOP donor and casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.

Upon hearing the news of his departure, representatives from industry gaming groups praised Burnett’s tenure as chairman.

“I wish him well,” said Virginia Valentine, the head of the Nevada Resort Association, which lobbies state government on behalf of the gaming industry. “I think I speak for all members of the association when I say we appreciated his having an open mind, always taking time to consider our position.”

Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, echoed Valentine’s words.

“The AGA has been lucky to work with Chairman Burnett over the past five years to across a wide range of issues,” Freeman said. “Nevada is a model regulatory jurisdiction for gaming thanks in no small part to his leadership. He has been a terrific advocate for our industry, and we’ll miss having him as a partner.”

The board is the administrative and enforcement arm of Nevada’s gaming regulatory structure. As its chairman, Burnett oversaw investigations into executives and companies applying for a coveted Nevada gaming license, as well as lower level employees applying for gaming registration.

The board also helps develops gaming regulations, researches and tests new gambling games and technology, collects tax and revenue information on the industry, monitors the integrity of games and gaming in the state, and via its gaming agents, maintains a law enforcement presence in casinos around the state. It is also investigates and nominates people for Nevada’s infamous Black Book, formally known as the list of excluded persons.

The board meets again next month. But, Alamo said, it will still be able to work even if the governor doesn’t name Burnett’s replacement.

“When Mark Lipparelli (who preceded Burnett as chairman) was replaced by A.G., they had to work with just two members before he got on board,” Alamo said. “So the governor is in no hurry.”

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