Reno explores new limits for slot machines outside casinos - Tuesday 12th of July 2005

Looking to close a loophole in the law regulating limited, slots-only gambling licenses, Reno City Council members last week hoped to add some simple restrictions to their code.

Instead they quickly found themselves discussing serious policy issues and asking more questions than offering solutions.

What sparked the discussion Wednesday is the ability for someone to create two separate but connected businesses that share some facilities, such as a kitchen. Because there are two business licenses, the owner could apply for two restricted gaming licenses. That would give each location the opportunity to have up to 15 slot machines.

Such is the case with Sierra Gold and Sierra Junction at Double R Boulevard and South Meadows Parkway, which are connected by a shared kitchen. Council members think the owners of Sierra Gold and Sierra Junction might have used the shared kitchen to circumvent city code, which limits businesses to 15 slot machines.

The discussion included whether to codify some areas as unsuitable for gaming and creating distance requirements between restricted gaming locations and such things as churches and schools.

Councilman Dave Aiazzi questioned whether the city would be forced to tell a church it couldn’t open within 1,500 feet of a bar if the restrictions included preventing bars from opening within 1,500 feet of a church.

“If those two things are incompatible, then to me it goes both ways,? Aiazzi said.

Las Vegas has 1,500-foot distancing requirements between taverns. Local gaming lawyer and lobbyist Michael Alonso, who worked in Clark County when those codes were written, said the distancing requirements can work, but the city should evaluate the spacing that’s right for it.

“The 1,500-foot rule really was a response to the growing popularity of taverns,? said Alonso, who also represents the Sierra Gold owners.

Mayor Bob Cashell said the city should take a much broader look at limiting how many more restricted gaming licenses it issues.

Giving out such licenses undercuts larger casinos, which have made a bigger financial investment in Reno, he said.

“You can’t keep putting five slot machines up and down each street ... All we’re doing is undermining the people we’ve asked to make an investment in the community,? said Cashell, who’s owned and operated casinos most of his life.

Councilman Dwight Dortch disagreed with the mayor, saying restrictions would only hurt smaller companies from investing.

“You start putting restrictions that limit competition and that’s a bad thing,? Dortch said.

In the end, the council asked its staff to assemble maps of the city that show existing locations of bars with restricted-gaming licenses and what spots would be available for development if they wanted to create distancing requirements.

Community Development Director John Hester said seeing what’s already out there will be an interesting exercise. Regardless of what changes are made, it will likely create several, if not many, locations that don’t fall into the new rules.

“The other problem is that as you get more and more complex, it becomes harder and harder to administer, and the likelihood that you’ll miss something goes up,? Hester said.

As another part of the discussion, the council approved Hester’s plan to initiate a series of master-plan amendments that change the city’s policies about acceptable locations for full-blown casinos.

His plan would create regional centers around the Redfield Campus on Mount Rose Highway and another around Boomtown. Those would be added to the convention-center area, airport and downtown as appropriate places for hotel casinos.

It also would recognize most existing gambling entitlements, while eliminating at least one.

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