A year after the Nevada Gaming Control Board moved to clean up an industry sullied by Steve Wynn, a casino owner who reportedly couldn’t keep his hands off the hired help, the industry, which employs more than 400,000 people, remains paralyzed by inaction.
Regulations proposed by the Nevada Gaming Control Board (GCB) designed to protect hotel workers from other employees and the millions of visitors who patronize the state’s casinos, have gone nowhere since Gov. Steve Sisolak took office.
Former Control Board chairwoman Becky Harris, who crafted the proposed regulations, has been replaced by Sisolak appointee Sandra Douglass-Morgan.
“I’d be surprised if Douglass-Morgan didn’t pick up that thread and proceed with that (the proposed regulations),” gaming executive Mac Potter of Sparks-based Northern Star Casinos told the Current.
Douglass-Morgan has declined comment on the proposed regulations, as has Gaming Commission chairman Tony Alamo, who had declined to take up the matter pending disciplinary action involving Wynn and his former company. Wynn Resorts has been fined by gaming regulators in Nevada and Massachusetts.
Sisolak, who initially supported then-Gov. Brian Sandoval in urging the Commission to take up the GCB’s proposed regulations, later backed off.
In January, Sisolak created a sexual harassment task force, his first official act, to review sexual harassment laws and regulations. “There is no place for workforce sexual harassment or discrimination in Nevada, period,” Sisolak said when announcing the task force.
Shortly after the task force was created, Sisolak told the Current he hoped the task force would alleviate the need for gaming companies to submit reports of harassment to the state.
“And I hope they won’t have to submit because my hope is we can eliminate or greatly reduce the number of any complaints coming forward. Some of these things become a matter of litigation and confidentiality and I want to make sure that we don’t step on anyone’s rights along the way.”
The task force, which is made up of representatives from the Executive branch, law enforcement, labor, gaming and others, recently drafted recommendations to submit to the governor after meeting four times for a total of four and a half hours, according to records posted on the Attorney General’s website.
Those recommendations, however, do not apply to sexual harassment regulations and policies in the gaming industry.
Task force member Ann McGinley, a professor from the Boyd Law School, says sexual harassment in casinos was not a topic of discussion for the panel.
“It never even came up,” says McGinley. “The work we were doing has very little to do with casinos. It only applies to government.”
McGinley, who writes about the aftermath of the Wynn debacle in an article in the UNLV Gaming Law Journal, says the regulations proposed by the GCB are consistent with recommendations from the EEOC Task Force on Sexual Harassment.
“…approval of the GCB proposed amendments would likely do more good than harm, and such approval should create important change in the industry,” Mc Ginley wrote. “By the same token, the best solution to the harassment culture that pervades the casino industry is to institute a comprehensive research project surrounding harassment in the gaming industry.”
Potter, a critic of the GCB’s proposed regulations as well as some of the policies recommended by the governor’s task force on sexual harassment, says laws are already in place to address sexual harassment in the workplace.
But Potter admits recent events illustrate serious flaws in the process for reporting, investigating and resolving complaints.
“I suppose when it comes to something as serious as this is, and especially in light of the last year or so, yes, it needs to be reinforced,” Potter says. “A policy, whether it’s good or not so good, should be the same for everyone.”
Potter wrote the task force that its draft recommendations lacked specificity. He noted timelines for filing complaints should be consistent with existing law.
“I assumed, perhaps naively, the state government policies would be consistent with accepted human resource policies for private business, or perhaps even more detailed,” Potter said. “But when I got to come in conversation with the task force, these are the concerns that I still had.”
Attorney General Aaron Ford, who chaired the task force, noted Potter’s objections and implemented his suggestions in the recommendations, according to the minutes from the meetings.
It’s unknown whether the draft report has been submitted to the governor.
Jessica Adair, chief of staff for Ford, did not respond to calls and emails from the Current. Sisolak’s spokeswoman, Helen Kalla, also did not respond to requests for comment.
Although privileged licensees (those holding gaming or cannabis licenses) were asked to submit sexual harassment policies to the state for review, the task force’s recommendations do not affect private industry.
“There is currently no statutory requirement that companies holding privileged licenses, or those that enter into contracts with the state, have policies against sexual harassment,” according to the draft report.
Among the recommendations from the sexual harassment task force:
- Adopt statutory requirements regarding sex- and gender-based harassment policies for the Department of Administration
- Create a Sex- and Gender-Based Harassment and Discrimination Investigative Unit to support victims’ rights and confidentiality “while also ensuring due process for those alleged to have committed an offense.”
- Adopt statutory requirements regarding sex- and gender-based harassment policies for state vendors. “The Division recommends that Nevada adopt language similar to a law in Oregon, which requires a state vendor to certify that it has a ‘policy and practice’ of prohibiting sex and gender-based harassment and discrimination,” the report says.
- Update Nevada Administrative Code definition of sex- and gender-based harassment.
- Review state training programs.