Becky Harris Just Got Named The Most Powerful Woman In US Gambling

Written By Jessica Welman on January 12, 2018 - Last Updated on November 24, 2021
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Nevada gambling is not entirely a man’s world. For the first time ever, a woman will run the state’s Gaming Control Board (NGCB). Gov. Brian Sandoval’s office announced on Friday that State Sen. Becky Harris will be the state’s first female chair of the NGCB. She fills the position left empty by A.G. Burnett’s December resignation.

Harris only second woman to serve on NGCB board

To give you an idea of just how much NGCB can be a boy’s club, consider this: Harris is only the second woman ever appointed to even serve on the board.

The only other woman to even serve on the board is Patricia Becker,who was appointed in 1984. Becker is an inductee in University of Nevada Las Vegas’ Gambing Hall of Fame. A glance at her resume frequently references all of the things she was the first woman in gaming to accomplish.

Harris’ resume is certainly impressive as well. The UNLV and Brigham Young graduate currently works as an attorney at Jerimy Kirschner & Associate in addition to serving in the state Senate.

In his statement announcing Harris’ appointment, Sandoval spoke about her gaming experience:

“Nevada’s gaming regulatory structure is the best in the world and it is imperative that the public servants who serve on this commission are beyond reproach and willing to make difficult decisions. Becky has served her community as an elected official and worked to pass legislation which codified the e-gaming decision made by the Gaming Policy Committee which authorized e-gaming competitions, helped spur innovation in gaming, and ensured Nevada remain on the forefront of new opportunities in one of our state’s oldest industries.”

Partisan politics play a big role in Harris’ future

Technically the appointment is only for a year. Harris will serve out the rest of Burnett’s tenure, which ends next year. Sandoval, a Republican, is term-limited and, therefore, not seeking re-election this fall. Currently there are three people vying in each of the party’s primary races.

Harris is also a Republican, so should the office flip parties, it is possible the new governor will appoint another Democrat to the post. If she does get reappointed, the term would be for four years.

Harris is not just risking her own future. She is also risking the power position of the GOP in the state Senate. Her district is a competitive one, which could shift the balance of power come election time. Republicans were hoping to gain ground and pick up seats, so to lose footing in a contested district could have major repercussions.

Nonetheless, Harris told the NV Indy she felt no party pressure to turn down the posting. However, she did have concerns about leaving the Senate behind.

“I feel a responsibility to shepherd my seat. However, the world is not static, and different opportunities come up at a time when it’s least convenient,” Harris explained. “You look at Scott Hammond running for Congress. You look at Senator Roberson running for lieutenant governor. These are individualized decisions people have to make.”

A progressive step for gaming

Harris has some major issues to contend with in her new role. Most notably, determining how casinos in the Silver State will approach marijuana. Given Attorney General Jeff Session’s recent crackdown on state-legalized marijuana, this issue just gets murkier.

Another major issue for NGCB is the possibility the state’s casinos could soon have major competition when it comes to sports betting.

Needless to say, even if her term only lasts a year, Harris is already making history as the first woman to hold one of the most important posts in American gambling. And given how much is happening on the gambling front this year, she stands to make more before stepping down.

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Jessica Welman

Jessica Welman has worked as a tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour, co-hosted a podcast for Poker Road, and served as the managing editor for A graduate of Indiana University and USC, Welman is not only a writer but also a producer. She can be found on Twitter @jesswelman.

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