Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval’s signing of a law enabling online gambling in that state capped one of the fastest actions ever on a bill in the Legislature, with a joint committee hearing and votes in the Assembly and Senate on the same day.
The law, which took effect when Sandoval signed it Thursday, gives Nevada a jump on New Jersey in the rush to compete in the online poker business.
“This is an extraordinarily important bill to our economy,” Sandoval said just before signing the bill.
The bill was signed in the same room where casino gambling was legalized by the Legislature more than 80 years ago.
Assembly Majority Leader William Horne, who sponsored the bill, took a poke at the Garden State in his brief remarks at the ceremony.
“As to our competitor New Jersey, they should be accustomed to following Nevada,” he said.
Sandoval had asked the Legislature in his State of the State address to pass an online gambling bill within 30 days. Lawmakers got the job done in 18 days.
Sandoval called online gambling the “new frontier” for the industry.
“This legislation today finally opens the door to allow Nevada licensees or those who would get licensed in this area, to engage in online gambling,” he said. “It’s important because there are other states that are looking at this as well, specifically New Jersey.
“We’re not trying to be first for the sake of being first, but we are prepared to move forward,” Sandoval said.
Online gambling won’t start immediately, however. The Nevada Gaming Commission will have to adopt regulations implementing some aspects of the interactive gambling law.
Nevada allows interactive gambling within the state based on 2011 legislation, said A.G. Burnett, chairman of the Nevada State Gaming Commission. The new legislation removes regulatory barriers impeding interstate online gaming, he said.
The bill is viewed as critical to Nevada’s economy, because it will enable existing licensed gambling companies to take the lead in making online poker available around the country, potentially giving them a competitive advantage over operators in other states.
Horne said in testimony at the joint committee hearing that online gambling will generate new jobs, $3 million in tax revenue and create an economic output between $10 million and $15 million.
Caesars hires veterans
Caesars Entertainment Corp. Chairman Gary Loveman kicked off the company’s new hiring initiative Wednesday by introducing six employees ranging from senior level executives to front-line casino workers.
All had one thing in common. They are former members of the military.
Representatives of the casino giant unveiled Enlisting Heroes, which is aimed at providing jobs for U.S. military veterans.
Caesars, which operates more than 50 casinos across the United States, including 10 on or near the Strip, has about 10,000 job openings.
In Nevada, the company has about 500 positions available.
The idea is to match retiring members of the military with positions within the company.
“This program is based on the experience we’ve had with veterans working for us,” Loveman said. “The initiative is not simply the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do.”
Loveman likened the initiative to other corporate efforts to hire military members undertaken by such companies as Disney and Boeing.
MGM could shed assets
MGM Resorts International Chairman Jim Murren said the casino operator wouldn’t be opposed to selling one or more of its properties in Las Vegas or elsewhere if the numbers were to pencil out.
“We have no plans, but I wouldn’t rule it out,” Murren said Wednesday after the company’s fourth-quarter earnings conference call. “After a long and brutal recession that impacted Las Vegas, there are consistent signs of improvement and investor interest.”
MGM Resorts operates 10 casinos on the Strip, as well as resorts in Northern Nevada, Detroit, Mississippi and Macau. The company also owns 50 percent of the 3-year-old CityCenter development.
On the conference call, Murren said the CityCenter partnership, which is half-owned by Dubai World, would consider selling nongambling assets, such as the Vdara Hotel and the Crystals retail, dining and entertainment center, to raise cash.
He said the company has been approached in the past six months about selling Crystals. A transaction is not imminent.
“Retail centers are trading high multiples,” Murren said. “There is an interest in these type of investments.”
Any proceeds would be used to pay down debt on the 67-acre CityCenter, which is at $1.85 billion, down from $2.5 billion a year ago.