Comment: Vegas betting against the pot

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The ongoing discussion around the legalisation of marijuana in Nevada was brought to the fore at G2E by Terry Johnson of the state’s Gaming Control Board.


The regulation and recreational sale of marijuana in Nevada would at first seem relatively wholesome for a state that markets a city of sin as a its star attraction but such is not the case.

Terry Johnson of the Nevada Gaming Control Board spoke at G2E about the ongoing tightrope the regulatory body finds itself on regarding recreational use of the drug in and around casino premises.

Paramount in this is the disparity between the practices in regards to state and federal economics.

“We want to make sure that there will be no commingling of cash between the gaming industry and the marijuana industry, because the latter cannot use the traditional banking system. All our objectives are geared toward maintaining the gaming industry in Nevada as viable economic force,” he said.

Whilst gambling practices in Las Vegas are all conducted under local, state and ultimately federal laws the consumption of cannabis remains illegal under the latter. It is in this legislative haze that Johnson believes a safety-first approach from the side of gaming is the best course of action to avoid any potential conflict and ultimately fiscal hits.

“In the event of a federal prosecution, since it is still illegal in the federal law, we want to make sure that no gaming employees or gaming executives are criminally prosecuted. We want to make sure that there’s no forfeiture of gaming assets in the event of a federal prosecution,” he said.

There is seemingly little assistance from centralised governmental bodies as how best for operators to proceed in regards to the topic, a central cause of worry for the gaming board, so commented Johnson.

“That’s actually the biggest challenge that we’re facing is the differing perspectives that we are hear- ing from Washington during the campaign, we heard that it is a state’s right issue. Now we are hearing that the Justice Department convened a committee to examine the cold memorandum, whether it will main in effect as it is under the Obama administration,” he commented.

“So it is difficult for us to gauge what is going to be the policy, and as a result we have to act in a way that reduces risk. So in that area of uncertainty, we want to reduce our risk that the gaming properties would be caught up in any adverse actions.”

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