Higher Education:

Planning underway for UNLV center on gaming regulation

An information bar is shown on the side of an IGT video poker machine during the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) at the Sands Expo Center Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014.

When Las Vegas attorney Tony Cabot began practicing gaming law more than 30 years ago, it was a pretty local practice. Now, it’s an international one.

Cabot has seen casinos spread in the United States and abroad, bringing with them a host of additional laws and regulations that made the gaming industry more complex as a result.

Cabot hopes a program he’s helping create at UNLV can bring some clarity to the industry. He’s part of a group of university officials and gaming industry professionals creating a new academic center at UNLV dedicated to gaming regulation.

“As (gambling) has proliferated across the world, it’s been the genesis of gaming law,” Cabot said. “I’ve always felt that there wasn’t sufficient academic research or academic recognition of gaming law as an actual discipline.”

The university’s hotel college and law school are teaming up to form the center, which will conduct research and offer classes for industry professionals. Bo Bernhard, the executive director of UNLV’s International Gaming Institute who’s also been involved in the center’s formation, said it should be up and running in time for the next academic year.

Daniel Hamilton, the dean of UNLV’s William S. Boyd School of Law, said the center still needed to be officially approved, but he called it “a great idea that we’re pursuing and we’re going to make happen.” It falls in line with another program his school has already created: a master of laws in gaming law and regulation that will welcome its first class next fall.

Don’t expect the university to construct a fancy building for the center — it’s more of an intellectual program than a physical space, though it will have its own executive director.

It’s not a program for UNLV students, either. Rather, the students will be people like officials from areas that are expanding the gaming industry, or new regulators with limited professional exposure to casinos. They’ll enroll in a short program to get themselves up to speed.

The center’s research will include looking at how well different gaming regulations work. For example, researchers may examine the effectiveness of approaches various jurisdictions use to combat problem gambling, such as loss limits and self-exclusion programs.

Some of this work happens already. Bernhard said UNLV already offers short custom classes to people from cities around the world interested in learning how to create or govern the gaming industry in their area. And there has been research “here and there” on gaming regulation, he said.

But with the new center, UNLV will teach and research gaming regulation in a more centralized, systematic way. It will create a body of knowledge that concentrates on gaming regulation and, in doing so, help establish it as an academic discipline, Bernhard said.

“The gaming industry is a very strictly scrutinized industry, in large part because it’s got a history of bad guys being involved, but there’s never been an academic field dedicated looking at how you monitor and regulate this very complex and global industry,” he said. “One of the things this is doing is really inventing a field of study.”

The industry didn’t have such a need for such an academic center in decades past because “the gaming world just wasn’t that big and just wasn’t that complex,” Bernhard said. With gaming having expanded, the center’s research can help the global industry figure out which regulations are actually working.

“Until you have that empirical research done, regulators end up guessing at what works and what doesn’t,” Cabot said. “And when you start to guess, you often have divergent methodologies.”

For casino companies with properties in multiple states or countries, such different regulatory approaches can be especially burdensome, Cabot said.

Gaming Control Board chairman A.G. Burnett, one of the state’s top regulators, said it makes sense to have a center like this in Nevada, which has “always been the gold standard in gaming regulation.” He said the center’s research will come in handy as the board considers regulations on new types of gambling technology.

The center should produce practical research that is valuable to people who work the gaming industry, Hamilton said.

“There’s a lot we don’t know, there’s a lot we know but we haven’t put together in one place to really get a sense of the field, and there’s a lot we need to know,” he said. “This center will, we hope, act as a bridge between academia and industry and produce research that is useful to both.”