Marijuana sparks questions for casino operatorsBy Ellen Whittemore, VEGASINCAugust 14, 2017 at 5:49 amWhen recreational marijuana stores opened in July, thousands took advantage of its legalization. And that created confusion in the gaming industry.Let’s start with a few basic premises. The Nevada Gaming Control Board and Nevada Gaming Commission are vested with exceedingly broad discretion to regulate the activities of casino resorts and those who work in them. In 2014, after medical marijuana sales and use was legalized, the board notified gaming licensees and applicants that it considered an investment in a medical marijuana business to be inconsistent with any type of gaming license or approval. The rationale was that federal law made it illegal to manufacture, distribute, dispense or possess marijuana. As a result, a number of gaming licensees were forced to choose between having an interest in a marijuana business, even as a landlord to such a business, and having a gaming license. The board also found that it was not sufficiently remote for a spouse to invest in the medical marijuana business and prohibited even that indirect interest by gaming licensees. Unless or until the federal law is changed, the board will not allow its licensees to be involved in a marijuana business.While that issue has been resolved, other issues remain. Commission Chairman Tony Alamo recently reported that a marijuana advisory committee appointed by the Clark County Commission recommended that Clark County should prohibit the distribution or consumption of marijuana in the resort corridor and on the premises of gaming licensees to comply with the prohibition of consumption and possession of marijuana on gaming properties. It remains to be seen what steps a licensee must take to prohibit consumption on its premises. Is the casino operator expected to knock on a guest’s door when the odor is present? Is the operator expected to evict the guest? Is the operator expected to turn over to law enforcement agencies any marijuana or paraphernalia found in a guest’s hotel room, even if it is clear it is for personal use? And what is the operator to do when a guest lights up on the gaming floor? Confiscate the marijuana? Ask the customer to put it in an amnesty box? Or allow the customer to stow it in luggage?And, will there be any change to what happens when a guest attempts to or does bring marijuana into a night club on the casino floor? Club operators allow guests to place the marijuana in amnesty boxes outside of the venue. But if the club operator finds it during a bag search or the guest lights up, does the club operator have to confiscate the marijuana?These issues are important to resolve. Casino operators must have clarity as to what is expected of them and the nightclubs on their premises so they are not subject to disciplinary action for failing to satisfy the standards of the board and commission. The commission is expected to consider these questions soon and give needed clarity to casino operators.Ellen Whittemore is a shareholder at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck.