Guy W. Farmer: Governor fails to balance gaming commission

When I was in Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago for an event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Nevada Gaming Commission, many gaming control experts questioned Gov. Jim Gibbons' inexplicable decision to appoint five Las Vegans to the state's most powerful regulatory body.

Through the years, Nevada governors have tried to balance the five-member Gaming Commission geographically and have complied with the statutory requirement that "no more than two (commissioners) shall be of the same profession or major field of industry." Nevertheless, as of May 1, the commission will consist of four attorneys and a physician, all from Las Vegas.

So I wonder what Gov. Gibbons was thinking (if he was thinking at all) when he appointed Vegas attorneys Joe Brown and John Moran Jr. to the commission to replace Vegas businessman Arthur Marshall and former Lt. Gov. Sue Wagner of Reno. Brown and Moran join Chairman Peter Bernhard and members Radha Chanderraj and Tony Alamo Jr., all three from Las Vegas. Bernhard and Chanderraj, who is also a CPA, are lawyers; Alamo is a physician.

Although the new appointees are probably well qualified, Gov. Gibbons has chosen an unbalanced regulatory body. Having worked for the first Gaming Commission in the 1960s, I think we should insist on geographical and occupational balance. That first commission consisted of two members from Las Vegas, two from Reno and one from Smith Valley, only one of whom was an attorney.

"You would think in the best interest of the state, you would want different backgrounds and not just a concentration of attorneys," commented University of Nevada gaming economics Prof. Bill Eadington.

Yes, indeed. As Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Jane Ann Morrison asked, "Is it possible Gov. Gibbons believes there is no one in Northern Nevada good enough to serve on the Nevada Gaming Commission?" Or is this just the latest in a series of questionable decisions and political gaffes by our embattled governor?

"Gibbons ... has snubbed Northern Nevada while turning the commission into a club for Las Vegas lawyers," wrote Morrison, and so he has. And if we don't speak up, he'll continue down the same misguided road.

Earlier this month, NBC's "Today" show aired the governor's dirty laundry in the form of his lurid divorce battle with first lady Dawn Gibbons. The network hyped the story at our expense. I don't know about you, but I'm tired of explaining our governor's bad decisions and strange behavior to my out-of-state friends. Enough already!

- Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, has followed politics since 1962.

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