Outgoing Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval Joins MGM Resorts, Will Focus on Japan

Posted on: January 8, 2019, 11:10h. 

Last updated on: January 8, 2019, 11:21h.

Former Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval (R) is just one day removed from office, but the politician isn’t taking time off after serving two terms. Instead, the Republican is joining MGM Resorts to head up their global development and focus on state public policies relating to sports betting.

Brian Sandoval MGM Resorts Japan casino
Just 24 hours after leaving office, former Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval has landed a job with the state’s largest employer, MGM Resorts. (Image: KTNV)

Sandoval’s official title: MGM Resorts President of Global Development.

MGM CEO Jim Murren said “few leaders are as widely respected” as Nevada’s 29th governor, and believes the casino company can benefit from his “unparalleled level of skill, leadership and experience … in gaming, public policy, and economic development.”

MGM Resorts, like every other major casino operator, is heavily focused on Japan where the country is liberalizing commercial gambling. The formal bidding process to obtain one of the three coveted licenses could begin as early as this year.

Due to Nevada term limits, Sandoval couldn’t seek a third term. Governor Steve Sisolak (D) was sworn into office yesterday. The former Clark County commissioner defeated Republican challenger Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt in November.

Taking Talents Overseas

Sandoval is returning to the private sector for the first time in 20 years. He joined the Nevada Gaming Commission in 1999, then became the state’s attorney general in 2003. In 2005, he became a judge in the US District Court for Nevada, and then won the governorship in 2011.

It’s been two-decade run in the Silver State, but now Sandoval must think globally. The stakes are high.

Morgan Stanley believes Japan’s three integrated casino resorts upon maturation could generate $15 billion in annual revenue. For context, Nevada’s entire gaming industry won $11.5 billion in 2017, and that was the state’s best figure in a decade.

Gaming Post-Politics

Sandoval isn’t the only politician or federal official to enter the gaming world post-service. A few notables:

  • Tom Daschle: the former US Senate majority leader is part of Caesars’ three-person Japan Advisory Committee
  • Ted Olson: the former US Solicitor General successfully argued against the federal sports betting ban in 2017 and led to its Supreme Court repeal last year
  • Trent Lott: the former US Senate majority leader turned lobbyist was hired by the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling in 2015

In a statement, Sandoval says Murren has established “critical relationships” in Japan, and he’s looking forward to building them deeper. Expressing an appreciation for the Asian nation’s culture, and a commitment to its morals and values are thought to be key areas Japanese lawmakers will consider when reviewing bids.

Along with heading up MGM’s global efforts, another new role Sandoval assumed recently is that of husband. Similarly to his politics to business transition, the governor wasted little time in finding a new spouse after finalizing his divorce in 2018. He married gaming executive Lauralyn McCarthy in August.

New Game in Town

Nevada’s gaming industry is the gold standard, and looked to by other states that are authorizing or expanding their own relevant laws. Unlike Sandoval, who entered the governor’s office in Carson City with vast knowledge of the country’s richest gambling state, Sisolak arrives with no experience.

Sisolak will need to appoint two members to the Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC) when chair Becky Harris and member Shawn Reid’s terms expire later this month. Reid is retiring, while the governor is expected to reappoint Harris, the first woman to head the NGC.

The governor also chairs the Nevada Gaming Policy Committee, a 12-member group that includes regulators and gaming executives. Sandoval reinstated the panel in 2011 after a more than 30-year hiatus.

One of the members Sandoval appointed was Murren.