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December 9, 2018

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County puts moratorium on new tavern licenses

Commissioners seek to clarify code regarding restricted gaming licenses

Clark County will not issue any new business licenses for taverns for 70 days, as the county attempts to figure out what constitutes a “tavern” and considers an update to its code.

The County commission, acting as the liquor and gaming board, voted 4-3 on Tuesday to implement on a moratorium on accepting new tavern applications.

Commissioners Steve Sisolak, Rory Reid, Susan Brager and Larry Brown voted for the moratorium while Lawrence Weekly, Tom Collins and Chris Giunchigliani voted against it.

Applications submitted before Tuesday’s vote will not be affected.

Taverns, by definition in state regulations and Clark County code, are allowed gaming that is “incidental” to its main business operations. Sisolak said some businesses appear to be operating as taverns, but bringing in most of their profits through gaming — precisely what the code attempts to prevent.

It was called “the Dotty’s model” during nearly three hours of public comment on Tuesday.

Representatives from National Restaurant Services, Inc., which started the Dotty’s brand, argued that the hold was targeted specifically at their company after its successful growth.

Dotty’s usually houses a bar with food in addition to 15 slot and video poker machines at its locations, under a restricted gaming license.

On the other side, representatives from the Nevada Resort Association, whose members include most major casinos, pointed out business models have changed since a “tavern” was originally defined, and the code needs to be updated given the potential loophole.

The issue comes down to unrestricted gaming licenses, which are issued to casinos as gambling is their primary means of income, and restricted gaming licenses, which are issued to establishments with another major source of revenue.

It’s also a matter of money: the county collects taxes on revenue from slot machines under unrestricted licenses. Businesses with restricted licenses pay only a flat fee for each machine.

For the last six months, all parties have been engaged in discussions to develop a new definition for taverns, and, despite a sometimes-heated discussion on Tuesday, everyone involved expressed a willingness to continue the negotiations.

Sisolak said he hoped the move would motivate both sides to quickly find a common ground.

He also stipulated if an agreement was reached before March 1, when the hold expires, the moratorium could be lifted. If a consensus isn’t reached, Sisolak said, he will present his own ordinance on Feb. 15.

CORRECTION: This story was updated to correct which commissioners voted for and against the moratorium. | (December 22, 2010)

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