Nevada Gaming Board Chair Position In Limbo

Written By J.R. Duren on November 22, 2022
Nevada's new governor could choose to replace Brittnie Watkins as GCB Chair

You’re going to have a hard time finding someone more qualified than Nevada Gaming Control Board (GCB) Chairwoman Brittnie Watkins to regulate and enforce Nevada gambling laws.

Watkins has six degrees in total, including a J.D., a Ph.D. in educational psychology, and a Master of Laws in gaming law and regulation from UNLV. And yet that may not be enough to keep her job.

Nevada’s Gov.-elect, Joe Lombardo, will assume office in January. When he does, he can choose to oust Watkins and appoint his own choice to her position.

Who is Brittnie Watkins?

Watkins’ impressive resume includes six years at Las Vegas law firm Pisanelli Bice and multiple prestigious awards during her time at UNLV.

She was the first Black woman elected to the State Bar of Nevada Board of Governors, and the second Black woman to chair the GCB, according to The Nevada Independent.

Gov. Steve Sisolak appointed Watkins to the GCB in 2021 after board member Terry Johnson’s term expired. At the time, Sisolak said he was confident that Wakins was the right person for the job.

Sisolak said in a statement:

“Brittnie’s impressive educational background and legal experience in the gaming industry will make her an excellent addition to Nevada’s Gaming Control Board and to our state. As Nevada’s gaming industry continues to recover from the pandemic, it’s critical that we remain the gold standard and operate with the highest integrity, and I am confident Brittnie will help us achieve that goal.”

Watkins serves on the GCB with only one other member: Philip Katsaros. The board typically has three members. Lombardo will fill the third seat when he takes office.

Nevada gambling commission has big MGM hearing soon

Though Watkins’ time on the GCB may be nearing its end, she has important work to do.

In the next two months, the board will hear about Hard Rock International‘s (HRI) acquisition of The Mirage. Hard Rock announced in December it spent $1.08 billion to acquire the MGM Resorts property.

To complete the sale, it needs licensing approval from the Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC). Before the sale goes to the NGC, the GCB will offer its recommendations based on its hearing.

The Mirage acquisition is a big one for Hard Rock. It will be the first time the iconic brand has a hotel-casino in Las Vegas. Additionally, if the licensing goes through, it will make the Seminole Tribe of Florida, HRI’s owners, the first tribe to own a casino property on the Strip.

As for what happens after the Hard Rock hearing? Watkins told The Nevada Independent she wants to stick around. “Hopefully, [Lombardo] decides that I’m doing a good enough job to keep my role as chair,” she said.

Photo by PlayUSA
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J.R. Duren

J.R. Duren has covered the gambling beats for more than a dozen states for Catena Media since 2015. His past reporting experience includes two years at the Villages Daily Sun, and he is a first-place winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism Contest.

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