New UNR president brings his gaming experience from the political realm to the academic setting By Howard Stutz, Executive Editor, CDC Gaming Reports September 19, 2020 at 5:00 am As Nevada governor, Brian Sandoval entered the office with more hands-on Nevada gaming experience than any previous chief executive, having served as both chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission and the state’s Attorney General. That was a decade ago. So it’s safe to say that Sandoval, who left a 15-month-old job as President of Global Gaming Development for MGM Resorts International to pursue the presidency of University of Nevada, Reno, is bringing that background – plus his exposure to international gaming interests – to the Northern Nevada school. Sandoval, 57, was named UNR president last week. The announcement was anticipated as soon as he applied for the position. It became a foregone conclusion when he was the only name of the four finalists submitted to the Nevada System of Higher Education’s Board of Regents for approval. UNR actually jumped the gun by releasing a statement roughly 30 minutes before the regents’ official vote. As governor from 2011-19, Sandoval influenced innumerable gaming issues in Nevada, nationally and abroad. For example, in 2013 he pushed both legislative houses to approve a bill in less than 24 hours that allowed Nevada companies to offer Internet poker. Sandoval reinstituted the Governor’s Gaming Policy Committee after a nearly 20-year absence and the panel met nearly a dozen times during his eight years in office. The committee, which was chaired by Sandoval, included regulators, members of the gaming industry, tribal gaming leaders, lawmakers, and other stakeholders. The panel came up with a policy to advise the Nevada Legislature on four issues: Internet gaming, daily fantasy sports, esports, and legal marijuana. In his last year as governor, Sandoval led a trade mission to Japan on behalf of the National Governors Association. He also led Nevada trade missions in 2018 to Ghana, South Africa, and Spain. His other trade missions on behalf of the state included Australia, China, Mexico, Canada, Europe, Peru, and Chile. With MGM, Sandoval’s primary focus was on the company’s efforts to win an integrated resort license in Osaka, Japan. New UNR President Brian Sandoval addresses the media Thursday/Photo via Reno Gazette-Journal He told me in a 2018 interview with CDC Gaming Reports that the policies his administration implemented helped “create an environment for innovation” that fostered growth within the gaming manufacturing sector in Nevada. “I travel all over the world (on behalf of Nevada) and go to (gaming) jurisdictions,” Sandoval said. “Without exception, they have said they reach out to us to help them with their gaming regulatory system.” UNR has a deep history in gaming industry research. The school’s late economics professor Bill Eadington was considered the founding figure in the academic study of gambling. He developed two programs dedicated to the topic: the International Conference on Gambling and Risk Taking and the Executive Development Program. Both are now jointly administered by UNR and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ International Gaming Institute (IGI). Bo Bernhard, executive director of the IGI who succeeded his mentor, Eadington, as the Philip G. Satre Chair for Gaming Studies – which is overseen by both UNR and UNLV – wrote a letter in support of Sandoval. He said the UNR presidency was the former governor’s dream job. “I have worked alongside my friend, Governor Brian Sandoval, on five continents (Australia, North and South America, Europe, and Africa),” Bernhard wrote on social media. “Today, a brilliant decision was made, and the state is stronger for it. Here’s to many more collaborative days ahead and a trek to build bridges in Asia.” Sandoval, who grew up in northern Nevada, graduated UNR in 1986 and earned a law degree from Moritz College of Law at the Ohio State University in 1989, said Nevada’s gaming industry was made better by fostering expansion in other markets. He was personally supportive of New Jersey’s 2018 effort in the U.S. Supreme Court to legalize sports betting and was happy with the outcome that opened the doors for other states. “Las Vegas will continue to be better and stronger than ever,” Sandoval said in 2018. “I have always said to other governors that we are ready, willing, and able to assist. We have been doing this forever and we’re proud of our regulations. We’re the gold standard and we’ll be helpful in any way.” Sandoval said Nevada has created a talent pool of qualified employees, citing the research and development laboratories at UNLV’s IGI and the Master of Law (LLM) degree in gaming offered at UNLV’s William S. Boyd School of Law. He now has the platform to create a similar type of experience for UNR. “You put all that together (and) you just can’t replicate it anywhere else,” Sandoval said. Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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