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August 29, 2016

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Court sides with Clark County in fight over slot parlor regulations

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Justin M. Bowen

Cherie Nepote plays a slot machine at Dotty’s near Eastern and Serene in Henderson on Thursday, March 24, 2011.

Dotty's Gaming Commission Hearing

Nevada Gaming Commissioner John Moran Jr. asks attorney Patty Becker and Michael Eide, representing Dotty's Gaming & Spirits, a series of questions regarding the establishment, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2011. The commission heard arguments by Dotty's regarding a change to state gaming regulations. Launch slideshow »

CARSON CITY — A federal appeals court has rejected the petition of Dotty’s and other slot parlors in Clark County that challenged an ordinance imposing tighter regulations for such businesses.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Tuesday the constitutional rights of Dotty’s, Jackpot Joanie's and Eclipse Gaming were not violated when the county adopted the ordinance a year ago.

The three companies received multiple notices from the county and were given repeated opportunities to comment, the court said.

County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak said the decision was well reasoned and thoughtful and he praised the circuit court for its quick decision.

The ordinance said the operations must make 50 percent of their revenue from the sale of food and drinks. The former ordinance said gaming revenue must be “incidental" to the main business.

Sisolak said some of these mini casinos were making 90 percent of their revenue from slot machines. These small casinos must serve food prepared in a kitchen. Prepackaged or prepared meals reheated in an oven cannot be used to meet the requirement.

There has been a battle between these slot parlors and major casinos, which argue they don’t contribute to efforts to draw in tourists and should pay a higher tax. The commission chairman said this ordinance does not change the tax rate.

Sisolak, one of the main sponsors of the ordinance, said the county tried to get the state Gaming Control Board and the gaming commission to define the word “incidental.” But when the state declined, the county stepped in.

The court said the ordinance does not violate the constitutional Equal Protection Clause because it applies to hundreds of taverns and does not single out the three companies who appealed.

The ordinance exempts taverns licensed before Dec. 22, 1990.

The court said the retroactivity is “justified by a rational legislative purpose.”

The court also rejected the claim that Nevada law allows only the state to regulate gaming.

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