Nevada’s top gaming regulator is leaving the gambling world for the private sector, while also leaving a significant void during what could prove a pivotal moment for the state’s gaming industry.
On Monday, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval announced that A.G. Burnett would be leaving his post as chairman of the state’s Gaming Control Board (GCB) effective December 22. Burnett is leaving one year before his scheduled term is done, and no replacement has been named.
Burnett is leaving to take a job with law firm McDonald Carano, and he told the Nevada Independent he plans to focus on gaming law once his mandatory one-year ‘cooling off’ period is up. In the meantime, he’s unsure what he’ll be doing at his new gig, given that gaming is “what I know and that’s what I do.”
Burnett assumed the GCB chairman’s seat five years ago last month from outgoing chair Mark Lipparelli. Burnett said that he was proud of all the work he and his team had accomplished, but believes nearly two decades of regulating gaming is enough for anyone.
Sandoval called Burnett a “fair and thoughtful regulator who impressively balanced the roles of top gaming watchdog with ensuring that our state’s leading industry maintained flexibility to innovate and achieve forward progress.”
Among the innovations over which Burnett presided was Nevada becoming the first US state to launch a locally licensed online poker site in April 2013, and the first to ink an interstate online poker liquidity deal with another online-friendly state (Delaware) the following year.
Sadly, Burnett was incapable of or unwilling to convince Nevada stakeholders and legislators to broaden their online product offering beyond poker, and the state’s tiny population proved incapable of sustaining a viable online poker industry.
Burnett also oversaw approval of real-money skill-based gaming devices on casino floors, although the products have yet to truly find their niche. Mutual-fund style ‘entity betting’ by investor pools also became a reality during Burnett’s tenure, although it too has yet to catch fire.
Burnett’s exit comes just as it appears that Nevada’s US monopoly on single-game sports betting could be coming to a close. The state is also wrestling with how its gaming industry should deal with the thorny legal intersection of Nevada’s new recreational marijuana laws and ongoing federal marijuana prohibitions.