Relief: Southern Nevada shuttered restricted gaming locations can temporarily add upright slots Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports · August 6, 2020 at 7:30 am Las Vegas-area tavern owners, whose slot machines were turned off last month, will soon get back a portion of their games, albeit in a different format. The Clark County Commission on Wednesday unanimously approved a resolution that allows taverns to temporarily add up to seven upright slot machines to replace shuttered games embedded into bar tops. Nevada’s governor closed standalone bars and bar top areas on July 10 to reduce crowd sizes after the state saw an increase in coronavirus cases. Most restricted gaming locations in Nevada – those with 15 slot machines or fewer – have bar top slot machines. However, it was unclear when the tavern operators would need to revert the temporary slot machines back to standard bar top games. “In a judicious period of time, we will come back with a motion to suspend this resolution,” said Clark County Commissioner Justin Jones. Restricted gaming can be lucrative in Nevada, with some 2,451 locations in the state – more than 1,600 of which are in Clark County – operating roughly 17,600 slot machines. There are a total of more than 13,200 restricted gaming slot machines in Clark County, according to the Gaming Control Board. Restricted gaming also includes slot machines inside grocery stores, convenience stores, and drug stores, which were not affected by last month’s closure. The temporary resolution is intended to give tavern owners some economic relief after losing a large portion of their revenue stream. “This helps them get through a tough time,” said Clark County Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick. Nevada taxes restricted gaming locations through quarterly and annual fees per machine, far different than casinos, which pay 6.75% monthly on taxable gaming revenue in excess of $134,000. For the first five games, the quarterly fee paid to the state is $81 per machine. The locations pay $141 per quarter for each of the next 10 machines. Under the formula, the total annual tax for a location with 15 slot machines is $11,010. Roger Sachs, Steiner’s – A Nevada Style Pub/Photo via Las Vegas Sun Changes Tavern owners, or the location’s slot route operator, must submit a new floor plan to the Gaming Control Board outlining where the upright slots will be located in their facility. Clark County covers Southern Nevada and includes the cities of Las Vegas, Henderson, and North Las Vegas. Nearly a decade ago, Clark County passed an ordinance that required all slot machines in bars, taverns, and restaurants to be embedded in bar tops. The move followed a contentious legal battle with the Dotty’s tavern chain, which has a business model offering minimal food and beverage choices with a heavy focus on gambling. Casino companies and traditional tavern businesses complained that Dotty’s skirted regulations covering restricted locations by operating as glorified slot machine parlors. However, the three cities did not create a similar ordinance. Since the July 10 directive, many taverns in incorporated areas have added upright slot machines – some with as many as the maximum 15 – to replace bar top games. Roger Sachs, the operator of Steiner’s – A Nevada Style Pub, said two of his locations in the city of Las Vegas replaced six of the 15 closed bar top machines with upright slot machines. He said Wednesday that he plans to add six or seven upright machines to his tavern in unincorporated Clark County to replace the bar top games. Sachs, who along with other tavern operators appeared at the Clark County Commission on Tuesday to speak in favor of the resolution, told commissioners the businesses – which previously implemented health and safety guidelines mandated by state gaming regulators – were being unfairly treated by the state. Golden Entertainment, which has more than 60 tavern locations in Southern Nevada, reopened a dozen of its PT’s and Sierra Gold branded locations in the cities, saying they offer “a socially distanced gaming experience.” Meanwhile, a lawsuit filed by 37 Clark County bars and taverns that seeks to overturn the governor’s directive is scheduled for a District Court hearing Thursday. Virginia Valentine, president, Nevada Resort Association Unusual support The Nevada Resort Association, the trade group representing the state’s casino industry, which has often been at odds with certain tavern companies, backed the resolution to allow the seven standup games – as long as it is temporary. “We’re not here to oppose granting a temporary waiver, but it should be temporary and not permanent,” Resort Association President Virginia Valentine said on Tuesday. A day later, Valentine reminded commissioners that Clark County was the only government body to pass an ordinance that required taverns and bars to embed their games. “There needs to be an end to this,” Valentine said. On Tuesday, representatives from two of Las Vegas’s locals’ casino companies – Station Casinos and Boyd Gaming – spoke in favor of the resolution. ‘We’re in the gaming business’ According to Clark County’s resolution, a tavern “may operate seven or fewer stand-alone machines, provided that no more than 15 total games are operational in any establishment.” Meanwhile, other cities are allowing 15 stand-up slot machines if they fit into the facility. State gaming regulators consider revenues from slot machines “incidental” to a restricted gaming location’s primary business, although a percentage figure outlining what precisely constitutes “incidental” in this context has never been established. Earlier this week, Donna Rocker, owner of the Black Mountain Grill tavern in Henderson, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that she had relocated nine of her bar top slot machines into stand-alone consoles and is hoping her route operator can soon add the other five games. Rocker estimated video poker accounts for 80% of her tavern’s revenue. “None of (the) taverns opened to be in the food and beverage business,” she said. “We’re in the gaming business.” Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.