Gambling Licensees Told to Lay Off Marijuana To Stay in Game

Posted on: May 12, 2014, 05:30h. 

Last updated on: May 8, 2014, 07:05h.

Nevada Gaming Control Board medical marijuana
Several gaming executives could be affected by the Nevada Gaming Control Board’s declaration on medicinal marijuana. (Image US Fish and Wildlife)

Just in case any Las Vegas casino executives were even thinking about it, the Gaming Control Board has now issued a stern decree that none of its license holders may have anything to do with the state’s legalization of the medical marijuana trade. As any good poker player knows, it’s all about pot control, after all.

While marijuana has been legal for medicinal purposes in Nevada since 2000, the state passed a bill in 2013 that would allow businesses to dispense the drug, and gave the go- ahead for 66 potential such outlets throughout the state. The current system requires patients who qualify to receive the drug to either grow it themselves or get it from caregivers who grow and donate it, but the reality has been that many patients turn to illegal dealers.

“Still Illegal”

In March, Clark County became the first to accept applications for distribution licenses in southern Nevada, but the gaming industry has been warned off by its own regulatory authority. In a statement posted on the Gaming Control Board’s website, the agency stated that, in the eyes of the federal government, distribution and possession of marijuana is still a crime.

“Accordingly, unless the federal law is changed, the board does not believe investment or other involvement in a medical marijuana facility or establishment by a person who has received a gaming approval or applied for a gaming approval is consistent with the effective regulation of gaming,” said the statement, written by Gaming Control Board member Terry Johnson.

“Further, the board believes that any such investment or involvement by gaming licensees or applicants would tend to reflect discredit upon gaming in the state of Nevada.”

State Senator Greg Brower (R-Reno), who voted in favor of the bill, said he is pleased that the Gaming Control Board is taking this stance.

“This is another example of an unintended consequence from the inconsistencies with the law,” he said. “I voted for it, but I had significant reservations. My reservations have increased.”

High Rollers and Gambling Joints

Investigations by the Las Vegas Review-Journal have unearthed several figures among the 109 companies applying for a Clark County medicinal marijuana license that may be affected by the declaration. Perhaps the most prominent is M Resort CEO Anthony Marnell III, who owns 71 percent of a company called Clear River LLC, which is seeking a license. Meanwhile, brothers Troy and Tim Hearst, two of the owners of slot machine route operator JETT Gaming, are also understood to have invested in the medical marijuana business.

Lastly, Armen Yemenidjian, the son of Tropicana President Alex Yemenidjian, owns 40 percent of Integral Associates LLC, which has applied for five licenses. He is currently vice president of casino marketing and operations at Tropicana.

All of the above were unavailable for comment on the matter.

Elsewhere, marketing executive for Real Gaming Tom Mikovits announced he has begun to sever ties with the Wellness Connection of Nevada LLC, of which he was a manager. While he does not have a gaming license himself, Mikovits is an important executive with Real Gaming and decided his actions were in the best interests of both companies.