Schneider says gaming regulators should not be 'moral cops' on ads - Saturday 12th of March 2005

Sen. Mike Schneider says the state Gaming Control Board should not be "moral cops" who decide whether casino advertisements are too risque.

Instead that decision should be left up to elective officials such as the county commission or the city council, he said Thursday after introducing a bill to stop the board and state Gaming Commission from policing this area.

He referred to a three-count complaint filed by the board against the Hard Rock hotel that said the outdoor advertising of the resort was inappropriate.

"When you drive around and you see taxicabs with advertisements on them and they have bare butts shown on the back of taxicabs, how come those guys are not regulated?" he questioned. He said it's because they don't come under the gaming control board.

The Hard Rock agreed to pay a $100,000 fine but did not admit any rongdoing. Two of the three counts in the complaint that addressed the exual content of the advertisement, were dismissed. The third count said Hard Rock failed to comply with an agreement that the hotel has its advertising and promotional materials reviewed by a compliance committee.

The settlement clarified that Hard Rock management -- not the boutique casino's compliance committee -- is ultimately responsible for how its advertising messages reflect on the gaming industry's image.

Schneider said he did not want to say whether he approved or disapproved of the billboards of the Hard Rock and he added, "I don't want to be the moral cop here."

Senate Bill 299 said the board and commission can take action against a licensee only if the advertisement was false, deceptive and misleading.

His bill, he said "will probably get the dandruff up of some ministers." But he added

"Nobody is telling them (the ministers) what they can say in the pulpit."

Schneider said nobody knows who serves on the board and the members are appointed by the governor. He said they have become the "moral cops" for our community.

"You've got freedom of speech issues," he said.

He said elective officials have "a vested interest in the voters in the community instead of two people who are appointed who never have any say with voters and no contact with voters." He said there should be a discussion on this issue.

He was referring to the fact that by voting together two of the three control board members would be able to bring any complaint.

"If we're going to have moral cops out there, I think it should be elected officials or somebody that represents the people," he said.

He said the Hard Rock never appealed the disciplinary action by the state regulators. "The Hard Rock never pushed this to the Supreme Court. Their gaming license is in jeopardy. There is a heavy hammer over them."

"It seems to me they are scared to move on," said Schneider. "They have hundreds of million of dollars at risk."

Schneider also introduced Senate Bill 324 that would allow manufacturers of gaming equipment to pay extra to get their games approved faster by the control board. He said it takes six months to a year for the gaming control board to approve a new electronic device but in California, the unit is cleared in about one month.

He said the manufacturers are willing to pay more for expedited inspection and investigation of their machines.

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