Phil Ivey medical marijuana dispensary license

Poker superstar Phil Ivey has received preliminary approval for a Las Vegas medical marijuana dispensary license in Nevada. (Image:

Phil Ivey isn’t smoking something, but his future customers may be: Ivey received one of 26 preliminary license approvals for a medical marijuana dispensary from the Las Vegas City Council earlier this week, potentially making the poker superstar one of the first operators in the city to offer pot to consumers.

There are still further steps necessary before Ivey gets final approval to open such a business, but his approval does mean that the city found him qualified to move on in the licensing process.

About 50 potential operators went before the City Council this week to plead their cases for medical marijuana licenses. Those that got preliminary approval from the city will now have to also be approved by the state health department.

The City Council will eventually hold a final suitability meeting for those approved by the state before awarding a limited number of licenses that have been set aside for Las Vegas.

That means that Ivey still has a long way to go before getting a final go-ahead to dispense medical marijuana in Sin City. But if he can make his way through the various licensing stages, Ivey might end up slinging weed just as prolifically as he makes pot-sized bets at the poker table.

Council Split on Licensing Process

There’s been a lot of controversy over the way Las Vegas has handled the pot licensing process, though that has more to do with procedural questions than anything Ivey or any other potential licensee has done.

Councilman Bob Coffin introduced a motion to delay the proceedings until after Nevada regulators weigh in on the suitability of each of the applicants next week. He worried that making public opinions on applicants before the state made its own recommendations could potentially lead to lawsuits, and that waiting could allow the city to approach the issue with an “unbiased eye.”

But that motion ultimately failed, as a vote on the issue finished in a 3-3 tie. Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian and councilman Ricki Barlow also voted to delay the proceedings, while Mayor Carolyn Goodman, wife of infamous ex-mayor Oscar and mother of an applicatant herself, abstained from the vote.

Among the many applicants that were approved were developer James Hammer, restaurant owner Michael Morton, and political consultant David Thomas. Nuleaf, a Las Vegas-based company that is owned by a group that operates dispensaries in California, was denied for a license.

“I believe waiting would have made a difference,” Nuleaf spokesman Bradley Mayer said. “We feel confident that the state will find we are a very qualified applicant.”

Ivey Headliner of the Year

This is just the latest in a series of headlines made by Ivey that have nothing to do with his prodigious skills at the poker table.

Perhaps the biggest headlines have been made in his various edge-sorting cases against Crockfords and the Borgata. Ivey already lost the Crockfords case in the UK’s High Court of Justice, costing him over $12 million in winnings. A similar case against the Atlantic City casino is still pending, although in that case, it is the casino that is pursuing recourse to have its payouts returned. Ivey contends that the tactics he used in the games do not constitute cheating, while the casinos, not surprisingly, disagree.

Last Saturday, Ivey also shut down the Ivey Poker website, ending operations just 18 months after the Facebook poker program launched. However, the poker legend said that the shut down was just a transition for the product.

“It’s actually just the first step in our evolution as we prepare to launch an even bigger and better gaming experience for you all in 2015,” Ivey announced via his Twitter account.