LAS VEGAS -- The Nevada Gaming Commission voted Thursday to implement a statewide casino work card law that the American Civil Liberties Union has decried as potentially invasive and unconstitutional.
"I do believe we have provided safeguards," Chairman Peter C. Bernhard said. "I'm very concerned about the privacy issues."
The commission's decision to approve the new system means that people working in the gambling industry, from change makers to dealers, eventually will have to apply for the cards that go into effect beginning Jan. 1. The cards, which will cost up to $75, enable a person to work at any gambling establishment in the state.
In the past, those in the casino industry obtained a work card in the city in which they worked but were required to obtain a new one when moving to a new jurisdiction. The Legislature passed a law last year ordering the new system to save workers time and money.
The background check that must be completed to obtain work cards remains unchanged, Bernhard said. Law enforcement authorities will still check criminal records and verify an applicant's identity.
Bernhard said applicants will not have to provide financial and medical information unless they volunteer it or a judge grants the commission a court order to obtain it.
The board also voted to create a confidential database to maintain all applicant records that law enforcement agencies will be able to access.
Gary Peck, executive director of the Nevada ACLU, said his organization objected to police having unfettered access to applicant information.
"There is absolutely no limits on what can happen to the information," he said. "no limits on what can be investigated. That remains our concern, trusting law enforcement. Now police have a backdoor for getting that information."
Bernhard said he was confident that there were existing laws to discourage potential abuses. It's a gross misdemeanor to use the applicant information for purposes other than valid ones.
"We've struck an adequate balance," he said.
The new rules state that "information contained within the system of records is confidential and must not be disclosed except in the necessary and proper administration of the Gaming Control Act."
Peck also was concerned about how long the information would be stored.
The ACLU will lobby the Legislature to establish rules to ensure files are purged after a period of time and to set standards for gaining access to the material, Peck said.
"Imposing some limits isn't unreasonable," he said. "What's the criteria or standard that they use to make those kind of decisions? What can they go after and when they can go after it?"
Lt. Stan Olsen of the Las Vegas Police Department said Peck's concerns were "unwarranted."