With re-election campaign simmering, Governor Sisolak makes solid Gaming Commission picks By John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports October 13, 2021 at 7:24 pm No one can deny Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak has a lot on his plate these days. From the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic to a brewing 2022 re-election campaign that threatens his incumbency, he has more than enough to worry about without making judgment errors when it comes to the day-to-day grind of governing. So it would have been expedient for Democrat Sisolak to lard his latest appointments to the Nevada Gaming Commission with convenient choices. It wouldn’t be the first time a Nevada governor took the path of least political resistance. Through the years, the Commission has had more than its share of pals of the Guv and chummy nods to the state’s great contributing class. By Gage Skidmore – Steve Sisolak, CC BY-SA 2.0 Instead, Sisolak last week announced the selection of the first woman ever to serve as chair of the Commission when he appointed highly respected former District Judge Jennifer Togliatti. Sisolak then made another intelligent choice in selecting Ben Kieckhefer, a former state senator, to serve on the Gaming Commission. The governor’s own statement painted an admirable picture. “Both Judge Togliatti and Senator Kieckhefer are highly qualified appointments to these positions, and I am glad to have them continue their service to the Silver State by serving on the Nevada Gaming Commission. This Commission is the gold standard of gaming regulation and these appointments will continue to honor that.” We’ll save arguments about the historically political nature of the Commission for another day. A book could be written about the times former Gaming Commissions sided with well-connected operators to the detriment of the credibility of the industry as a whole. The appointments of Kieckhefer and Togliatti set a high standard. Both are ethical and thoughtful choices who figure to make substantive contributions. Kieckhefer, 44, is a former Republican senator. In his 10 years in the state Senate, he gained a reputation for his work ethic and ability to listen to opposing views as a member of the Finance, Health and Human Resources, and Revenue and Economic Development committees. He is employed at McDonald Carano as the Director of Client Relations. Togliatti, 54, is a former prosecutor who also served as a Justice of the Peace before rising to the District Court bench. She distinguished herself in nearly two decades as a respected settlement judge. She played an integral role in the 2014 settlement of a construction-defect case between contractor Tutor Perini Corp. and casino industry behemoth MGM Resorts International over the gaming company’s foundered Harmon Hotel at CityCenter. Between the two appointments, the state and the industry figure to be fairly and energetically served at a time of great change in both. It’s also a time that some casino observers find themselves wondering about the changing role of the Gaming Control Board and Commission in an industry that has far outgrown its legal roots in Nevada. Keeping up with dramatic shifts in the legalization of sports betting alone seems like enough to keep a dozen commissioners, or at least their staffers, busy. Add to that the multijurisdictional questions, the ever-present concerns about high-flying companies doing business abroad without violating regulations back at home, and the breakneck evolution of the very technology of gambling itself and there’s a steep learning curve for even the most astute and dedicated students. Having watched Togliatti for many years and followed Kieckhefer’s legislative career, I think they’re up to the task. The appointments also come at the outset of what promises to be a highly competitive campaign season, with Sisolak facing a growing slate of Republican competitors led by former U.S. Sen. Dean Heller and current Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo. With almost all being fair game in politics, the appointments are sure to be thoroughly scrutinized. With respect to others who have come before, many of whom served the Commission with distinction, I can’t think of more ethical selections than Togliatti and Kieckhefer. By any reasonable measure, these are rock-solid choices.