Nevada regulators to review

CARSON CITY, Nev. – Nevada casino regulators plan September hearings to examine state rules created to prevent the control of gambling markets by a few companies.

They’re concerned that existing rules don’t explain how much is too much for a single operator to own in any one market.

The hearings follow recently announced casino purchases in Mesquite and in Stateline, on Lake Tahoe’s south shore – a pair of relatively small casino communities dominated by a few companies.

Last week, the Nevada Gaming Commission OK’d Mesquite casino operator Randy Black’s $31 million purchase of Si Redd’s Oasis in the town at the Nevada-Arizona border along Interstate 15.

The acquisition will give Black control of three of the town’s four largest casinos.

Harrah’s Entertainment’s planned $675 million purchase of Harveys Casino Resorts would give Harrah’s the two biggest casinos on Lake Tahoe’s south shore.

“The rules need to be updated, and in some cases made more specific, and we’re going to put this on the front burner,” said Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Brian Sandoval.

State rules require regulators to consider the impact of consolidation on a national, statewide and local basis, but don’t set limits on how much control is too much.

They also must consider the impact of consolidation on consumers, employees and vendors.

The regulation was created in the 1960s after the U.S. Department of Justice threatened to intervene to block billionaire Howard Hughes’ planned purchase of a major Las Vegas hotel-casino on antitrust grounds after he had already bought several others.

The rules have never been used to block a casino purchase.

MGM Grand’s $6.4 billion purchase of Mirage Resorts in May 2000 was approved despite the combined companies’ control of an estimated 50 percent of the Las Vegas high-end gambling market.

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