Meet the man in charge of Nevada’s online gaming laws

Attorney John Moran Jr. is seen in his office Wednesday, April 17, 2013.

VEGAS INC coverage

It’s easy to see why Las Vegas lawyer John Moran Jr. refers to his office as “the war room.”

Not only are there neatly stacked piles of documents on his desk — some involving his law clients, some for his work with the Nevada Gaming Commission — there are real shotguns and rifles from past hunts mounted on the walls.

But the room is more than a work or play space. It’s an informal shrine to Las Vegas’ history.

There are pictures of Moran’s family — he has three sons, a daughter and six grandchildren, with a seventh on the way — and a campaign bumper sticker from when his father ran for sheriff. He also has a display of all of his father’s badges. John Moran Sr. was a three-term sheriff in Clark County who helped develop today’s Metropolitan Police Department.

And then there are the paintings.

Three pieces by Las Vegas artist Jerry Misko hang in Moran’s office. They show signs and images from the Sands, Flamingo and Desert Inn — all properties Moran once represented. They are a reminder of gaming’s past and where it’s headed in the future.

In the weeks ahead, the second-story office in a red brick building on Fourth Street will be the birthplace of a series of gaming regulations authorizing the governor to enter into online gaming agreements with other states. Interactive gaming has been labeled the next frontier for Nevada.

Lawmakers already approved legislation that enables Internet gaming in Nevada and allows the state to sign up online gamblers from other states. Assembly Bill 114 was approved and signed into law in record time in February. Gov. Brian Sandoval will likely target players in California and New Jersey.

Right now, there’s no roadmap for the burgeoning industry. Interactive gaming compacts never before existed.

“When the Legislature adopts new policy, it’s up to the Gaming Commission to provide the details through regulations,” Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Peter Bernhard said. “I usually assign a lead commissioner to work with the Gaming Control Board staff, the Attorney General’s Office and other commissioners to draft regulations, which are reviewed by the industry and in public hearings.”

Moran is that lead commissioner.

Bernhard approached Moran, a high school classmate at Western High School, because Moran had experience with interstate compacts from his time as commissioner and chairman of the Colorado River Commission.

“Interstate compacts with states are pretty prevalent,” Moran said. “We’ve had agreements with other states for water and energy use among the states in the Colorado River basin and even an international compact with Mexico. But this is going to be precedent-setting because it will be the first one for interstate agreements for gaming.”

Moran is ready to roll up his sleeves and start working.

“All the world looks to Nevada and the things that Nevada does in the gaming arena,” Moran said. “We’re the grandfathers of gaming, and that’s important. Brian Sandoval deserves a lot of credit for making sure we continue to be the gold standard for others to follow.”

Sandoval was the last of four governors to appoint Moran to a state commission.

Gov. Bob Miller asked him to serve on the Colorado River Commission. Gov. Kenny Guinn tapped him for the Nevada Wildlife Board and later the Gaming Commission. Gov. Jim Gibbons and Sandoval each reappointed him to the Gaming Commission.

The five-member panel has the final say on gaming policies and licensing. It receives recommendations from the state Gaming Control Board. The job is a paid part-time position.

Moran found it amusing that the son of the governor who gave him his first appointment, Secretary of State Ross Miller, also signed his most recent commission appointment.

“I don’t know if that’s telling me I’ve been on these commissions long enough, but it’s really something about having Bob’s son sign my commission appointment,” Moran said.

When Moran served on the Wildlife Board, he chose to meet in outlying rural counties to get perspectives from the people most affected by decisions about hunting and fishing. One of his biggest accomplishments was to revise a game animal plan that hadn’t been updated in 20 years.

Moran had a feel for those perspectives; he hunted with an uncle in Texas. A memento of one of those outings — a turkey he shot — is on a wall in his office.

Today, gaming has his attention.

Growing up, Moran had two casino jobs that piqued his interest in the industry. Before he was old enough to drive, he worked as a busboy at an ice show at the El Cortez, owned by Jackie Gaughan. He often got rides home from work in police cruisers dispatched by his dad, who was then chief of police.

Moran also worked as a slot foreman at the Frontier in the days when slot machines had coins. He fixed coin jams and filled and emptied machines.

Moran thought he was going to follow in his father’s footsteps and go into law enforcement. He once considered a career with the FBI. Instead, he went to UNLV, received a law degree from Loyola University and began practicing in 1975.

Still, Moran learned a lot from his dad.

His father was the first person in the family to attend a university. He won an athletic scholarship to the University of Arizona throwing the javelin and was good enough to be named to the U.S. Olympic team.

But World War II got in the way, and he dropped out of college, enlisted in the Marines and went to the South Pacific, where he won two battlefield commissions.

Moran said he inherited the desire to give back to the community from his parents, who were of Greek descent and moved to Southern Nevada to enter the growing hotel food provisioning business after working in canneries in Modesto, Calif. His father supported the family with his law enforcement career.

Even though sitting on state boards takes up a lot of his time, Moran said he knows it’s the right thing to do. He likes serving his community.

“I make time for this because I enjoy it,” he said. “The enjoyment is from serving the state at the behest of the governor. That’s really important to me, and it’s important to the state, and I like to be able to get involved in it. To do those kinds of things and serve in these times is challenging, but it’s something that I’m really proud to be able to do.”

Moran knows that his newest assignment may be the most important challenge he has faced.

“In gaming, we have a propensity to replow plowed ground,” Moran said. “But this time, it’s all fresh. It should be pretty exciting.”

Tags: News, Business