Nevada, US can Learn from European Online Gaming

Q & A with new Gaming Control Board chairman

by , Jan 13, 2013 | 1:00 pm

Photo: Casino Connection International

Photo: Casino Connection International

It’s not like A.G. Burnett has a huge learning curve in his new position as chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

For more than a decade, Burnett, 43, played a behind-the-scenes but active role in many of the agency’s decisions and rulings concerning the industry.

Burnett has offered legal advice and regulatory opinions on gaming company consolidation, federal antitrust issues, casino expansion into Macau other foreign markets, the emergence of private equity ownership, and advances in gaming technology.

He spent nine years as deputy chief of the agency’s corporate securities division, four years as a deputy attorney general for gaming and nearly a year as a state gaming agent.

In January 2011, Gov. Brian Sandoval appointed Burnett to become a member of the three-person control board. Sandoval elevated Burnett to chairman in November to replace outgoing chairman Mark Lipparelli. Burnett’s current term expires at the end of 2014.

A career as a gaming regulator was never a dream of Burnett’s. He aspired to be a trial attorney and spent two years with a Reno law firm after graduating law school.

An opening to become a state gaming agent attached to corporate securities, however, presented itself as an interesting opportunity. At the time, Burnett was 28, and his wife had just delivered the couple’s first child.

“I never really thought much about getting into the gaming industry, even though I grew up around it,” said Burnett, who was raised in Sparks. “I liked the people I met, (the control board) seemed like a real cool place and it was a good opportunity.”

A chance to represent the control board and Nevada Gaming Commission from the legal side drew Burnett to the attorney general’s office. Four years later, his close friend, Chief of Corporate Securities Mike LaBadie, offered Burnett a chance to be his deputy chief. LaBadie is now chief of investigations.

The position offered Burnett the opportunity to work with emerging casino jurisdictions on gaming regulation matters. He also oversaw the compliance activities of Nevada’s publicly traded casino operators and manufacturers.

Burnett believes that much of what he learned and experienced over his career will help as the control board enters the world of Internet gaming.

The state’s first pay-to-play interactive poker websites catering to customers within Nevada’s borders could launch by next spring.

“Internally, we’ve done so much analysis into the Internet world,” Burnett said. “I’m proud of our staff. They have gotten up to speed on interactive gaming and can speak with the experts. This is something the control board has always done. Take on a challenge, absorb it and analyze it.”

Question: You have worked with or under four different control board chairmen. What do you take from those individuals?

Answer: I have also been lucky to have worked with many different board members who I came to know and respect as well. What I’ve learned about myself is that when I get into something, I go at it 110 percent. One of the things I’ve concluded is that I can be like a sponge and take everything in, absorb what you want and filter out the rest.

That’s how I’m looking at this job. I’ve learned from (Bill Bible, Steve Ducharme, Dennis Neilander and Mark Lipparelli). They had a lot of attributes that will be useful. But then again, I’ll be my own person.

Question: What are your expectations with Internet poker?

Answer: What I would like to see is federal acceptance of an industry that is valid. I’ve visited Internet gaming companies while I was in corporate securities. They are truly Internet technology companies much like Google and Yahoo!

They have a way of self-regulation that is self-preservation. In order to stay in business, they have to make sure they are not getting hacked into. They have always got to be assured they are accepting wagers from legal jurisdictions, that they are doing geolocation, and age verification.

Many of these businesses are regular public reporting companies, traded on the London Stock Exchange and other markets. They have been really wrapped up in the whole situation since (the Unlawful Internet Gambling Act) was passed.

Question: As a gaming regulator, are you comfortable with these companies coming into Nevada?

Answer: Obviously, I’m not going to make an assessment on a company that could be coming before us for licensing. When you visit them, you realize these are real companies, not criminal enterprises by any stretch. They are located in business parks to next to Google and Yahoo!

They are tech guys and that puts me at ease. Everything they do is through digital record keeping that can go on forever. We’re going to require that.

Question: Is the Gaming Control Board ready for Internet poker?

Answer: If the feds give the OK for interstate poker to go live, it will be a significant increase in work load for the state, especially if Nevada becomes the hub. We’ll have licensing matters and taxation matters to deal with, but the state will benefit. We’re ready for intrastate (Nevada only) poker.

Question: What are your expectations for the agency in the upcoming Legislative session?

Answer: We know there is a fiscal crisis and we’re making very few requests that aren’t very major. The agency has been cut to the bare bone. We have our omnibus legislative bill that doesn’t have any controversial items in it.

There are some clean-up items to do statutorily and there are the seven recommendations the Gaming Policy Committee made the legislature. I think I will be spending a lot time explaining many of those issues to the new faces in the legislature.

Question: Competing in Triathlons is one of your hobbies, plus you held a black belt in Taekwondo. How many Triathlons have you competed in?

Answer: I probably have done four or five a year at all distances. I’ve only done three Iron Man races. My last one was this year. I think it’s safe to say it will be my last one for a while.

Question: What does A.G. stand for and how long have you been known as A.G.?

Answer: Andrew George, and I have always been called A.G.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.
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