Legal and regulatory frameworki Legislation and jurisprudence
The Nevada Act and the Regulations provide the primary legal framework for the regulation of gaming in Nevada. The laws, regulations and supervisory procedures of the Nevada Gaming Authorities are based upon declarations of public policy. These public policy concerns include, among other things:
- preventing unsavoury or unsuitable persons from being directly or indirectly involved with gaming at any time or in any capacity;
- establishing and maintaining responsible accounting practices and procedures;
- maintaining effective controls over the financial practices of licensees;
- preventing cheating and fraudulent practices; and
- providing a source of state and local revenue through taxation and licensing fees.16
The Nevada Act provides for a two-tier state regulatory system. The Board is a full-time regulatory agency consisting of two members and a chairperson, all appointed by the governor. The Board employs staff allocated among divisions, which perform various functions related to the regulation of gaming, including investigations related to applications for licences and findings of suitability. The Board makes recommendations to the Commission as to how licence applications should be handled. The Commission is a part-time body consisting of four members and a chairperson, all of whom are also appointed by the governor. The Commission makes the final determination on licence applications.iii Remote and land-based gambling
The Nevada Act and Regulations provide for the Board to license and regulate both online and land-based gambling. On 22 December 2011, the Commission adopted regulations for the establishment of a regulatory framework for the state regulation of internet poker pursuant to Assembly Bill 258 enacted by the Nevada Legislature. These regulations address the licensure of operators, service providers and manufacturers of 'interactive gaming systems', which are currently limited to internet poker. The core components of an interactive gaming system must be located in the state of Nevada except as otherwise permitted by the Board.17iv Land-based gambling
While licensed gambling is legal in Nevada, there are some restrictions as to where a gaming establishment may be located. In 1997, the Nevada Legislature enacted laws to regulate the location of future casinos in counties with a population of 700,000 or more.18 As a result, the laws currently only apply to Clark County, where the Las Vegas Strip is located. One of the purposes of restricting the location of future casinos in Clark County is to concentrate:
the next generation of large gaming establishments along the Las Vegas Strip . . . [to] promote responsible use of financial and natural resources by encouraging urban development in those areas where the transportation systems and infrastructure are best suited for such intensive development.19
New non-restricted gaming establishments20 in Clark County must be located in a gaming enterprise district (GED).21 Clark County publishes a map that indicates where the GEDs are located. Gaming establishments that were not located within a GED when the law was enacted in 1997 are grandfathered, but 'the establishment may not increase the number of games or slot machines operated at the establishment beyond the number of games or slot machines authorized for such a classification of establishment by local ordinance on December 31, 1996'.22 The Commission may approve the placement of a gaming establishment outside of a GED if the petitioner demonstrates that certain enumerated development criteria, such as the enhancement of the local economy and the welfare of the community, have been met.23v Remote gambling
The Nevada Act and Regulations authorise casinos to offer mobile gaming to their patrons. For a patron to participate in mobile gaming, he or she needs to go through an in-person registration process at the casino. Once authorised, the patron is provided a device that allows him or her to gamble remotely on the casino property. The mobile devices should not work outside the property. Additionally, Nevada's race and sportsbooks allow customers to place bets remotely on games and approved events on their mobile sports betting apps (provided the wagers are made in Nevada). Currently there are also two companies licensed to conduct interactive gaming (poker only) in Nevada. While one operates only within Nevada, the other pools customers in Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey pursuant to a Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement. Delaware and Nevada entered into this shared liquidity agreement in 2014 and New Jersey was added to the agreement in 2017.vi Ancillary matters
The manufacture, sale or distribution of gaming devices without a licence is illegal in Nevada.24 A 'gaming device' is any object used remotely or directly in connection with gaming, or any game that affects the result of a wager by determining win or loss and that does not otherwise constitute associated equipment.25
If a particular device is not a gaming device, it may be considered associated equipment in Nevada. Associated equipment is any equipment used in connection with gaming or mobile gaming, which connects to progressive slot machines, equipment that affects the proper reporting of gross revenue, computerised systems of betting at a race book or sports pool, computerised systems for monitoring slot machines and devices for weighing or counting money.26 Any manufacturer or distributor of associated equipment for use in Nevada must register with the Commission pursuant to NRS 463.665.27 The Commission has the discretion to require any manufacturer or distributor of associated equipment to file an application for a finding of suitability.28
Additionally, Nevada registers certain service providers. A service provider includes any person who:
- acts on behalf of another licensed person who conducts non-restricted gaming operations, and who assists, manages, administers or controls wagers or games, or maintains or operates the software or hardware of games on behalf of such a licensed person, and is authorised to share in the revenue from games without being licensed to conduct gaming at an establishment;
- is an interactive gaming service provider; or
- is a cash access and wagering instrument service provider.29
When the Commission issues a licence to a gaming operator, certain individuals affiliated with the casino licensee and the casino licensee's holding companies need to file applications and be investigated and found suitable. Generally, the Commission will impose a condition on a casino's licence requiring the general manager of the casino to file an application as a key employee of the casino.
For privately held businesses, the licensing requirements vary depending on the type of entity involved. No person may acquire a 5 per cent or greater interest in a privately held licensee or a holding company, nor become a controlling30 affiliate of such licensee or holding company, nor become a holding company of such licensee or holding company, without first obtaining the prior approval of the Commission.31 The Commission may require any or all of a privately held business entity's lenders, holders of evidence of indebtedness, underwriters, key executives, agents or employees, as applicable, to be licensed or found suitable.32 For a corporate licensee, in addition to owners of 5 per cent or more of the equity securities issued by the corporate licensee, all officers and directors of a privately held corporation that holds or applies for a state gaming licence must be licensed individually.33 Owners under 5 per cent must register with the Board.
Publicly traded corporations (PTCs) are treated differently under Nevada law than privately held business entities. The Nevada gaming statutes that deal with PTCs focus on voting control rather than on equity ownership. Each officer, director and employee of a PTC that the Commission determines is or is to become actively and directly engaged in the administration or supervision of, or is to have any other significant involvement with, the gaming activities of the corporation or any of its affiliated or intermediary companies must be found suitable and may be required to be licensed by the Commission.34 A holder of more than 5 per cent of the voting securities of a PTC registered with the Commission must notify the Commission within 10 days after filing notice with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).35 A holder of more than 10 per cent of the voting securities of a PTC must file an application with the Commission for a finding of suitability within 30 days after the chairman of the Board mails written notice to the owner.36 Qualified institutional investors can hold up to 25 per cent of the voting securities of a PTC, but they need to obtain a waiver from the Commission in order to do so.37
In March 2016, the Commission adopted Regulation 15C, which created a unique licensing framework for private investment companies. Regulation 15C defines a private investment company as:
any privately held legal entity except a natural person which holds or applies for a license, or owns, directly or indirectly, a beneficial interest in any corporation, firm, partnership, limited partnership, limited-liability company, trust or other form of business organization which holds or applies for a license, and which has the following characteristics: (a) 100% of the economic securities of the company are held, directly or indirectly, by (i) one or more private investment funds that are managed by an investment manager or managers, which investment manager or managers collectively have more than one billion dollars in assets under management or (ii) one or more institutional investors as defined in Regulation 16.010(14) that each has assets of more than one billion dollars; (b) 100% of the voting securities of the company are held by one or more legal entities that is controlled by one or more controlling persons or key executives of the investment managers or institutional investors[.]
A private investment company is regulated similar to a PTC but does not have the burdensome SEC reporting obligations and can maintain the confidentiality of its proprietary financial information.
In January 2019, the Commission adopted amendments to the Regulations pertaining to race books and sports pools. The adopted amendments provide, in part, clarification on permitted wagers. For example, licensed race books and sports pools may accept wagers on professional sport or athletic events sanctioned by a governing body, Olympic sporting or athletic events sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee, collegiate sporting or athletic events and virtual events.38 Wagers may be accepted on other events upon the Chair's approval, so long as the other event has been sanctioned by an organisation included on the list of sanctioning organisations maintained by the Board, or the other event is listed on the list of pre-approved other events.39
Gaming licensees are subject to taxes and fees. Among the types of taxes and fees to which a licensee may be subject are annual and quarterly taxes and fees, and a monthly percentage fee that is based upon the licensee's gross revenue. Casino licensees must pay an annual fee based upon the number of slot machines operated.57 For establishments operating more than 16 games, the licensee must pay a sum of US$1,000 for each game up to 16 games.58 A licensee must pay an annual excise tax of US$250 upon each slot machine operated.59 In addition, casinos' licensees must pay a quarterly fee of US$20 per slot machine operated in the establishment, and another quarterly fee based upon the number of games operated.60 Taxes and fees for other licensing categories such as restricted licensees, operators of slot machine routes and manufacturers vary.
Some casinos may also be subject to Nevada's live entertainment tax (LET). The LET is an excise tax imposed on admission to any facility in Nevada where live entertainment is provided.61 Resort casinos with concert venues or certain types of nightclubs, bars or restaurants may be subject to this tax. Live entertainment is defined as 'any activity provided for pleasure, enjoyment, recreation, relaxation, diversion or other similar purpose by a person or persons who are physically present when providing that activity to a patron or group of patrons who are physically present'.62
The types of entertainment considered to be live entertainment, as defined in NRS Chapter 368A, include: (1) music, vocals, dancing, acting, acrobatics, stunts, comedy or magic provided by professionals or amateurs; (2) animal stunts or performances induced by one or more animal handlers or trainers; (3) athletic or sporting contests, events or exhibitions provided by professionals or amateurs; (4) a performance by a disc jockey who presents recorded music; and (5) an escort who is escorting one or more persons at a location or locations in Nevada.63 The rate of the tax is 10 per cent of the admission charge to the area or premises (indoor or outdoor) where live entertainment is provided and for which a fee is collected to enter or have access to the area or premises.64
Taxes and fees related to gaming are not just the responsibility of gaming licensees. Gambling winnings are considered income and are therefore taxable. When a player wins US$1,200 or more from a single slot machine bet, for example, the player is given an Internal Revenue Service Form W-2G – Certain Gambling Winnings to report the winnings to the Internal Revenue Service.65 A player can expect a federal tax rate of approximately 30 per cent on gambling winnings. Nevada does not have a state income tax, so for Nevada residents, no additional tax is due to the state.