Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014 | 2:09 p.m.
A monthslong and often contentious debate about how to stop the proliferation of slot parlors came to an end today when the Clark County Commission passed sweeping regulations for slot machine gaming at bars. And the message to Dotty's: install full kitchens.
The commission approved the changes in a 6 to 1 vote, with Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani in opposition.
Although Giunchigliani supported most provisions in the new law, she favored a six-month grace period to allow bars to come into compliance before the new rules take effect.
The item was scheduled to be decided Tuesday, but was delayed for a day after two last minute amendments were added to the proposed law.
The target of the ordinance is popular tavern chain Dotty's, which offers a homey decor and a quiet place to gamble at its 34 locations in unincorporated Clark County. Although Dotty's sells food and drinks, critics contend that slot machine gaming is the main attraction and that the business operates more like a mini-casino than a bar.
After the meeting, Dotty's chief operating officer, Mike Eide, said he was disappointed with the commission's decision and that it would require his company to spend $10 million on renovations to meet the new requirements.
"We'll adapt," Eide said.
The new law requires bars with slot machines to pass a two-pronged test: operate a full kitchen and embed slot machines in the bar top, or prove that slot machine earnings don't exceed 50 percent of revenues.
If a bar doesn't meet at least one of the conditions, the number of slot machines it's allowed could be slashed from 15 to seven.
The new law also goes into specifics about how the bar should look and operate, including the height of the bar and the type of food served by the kitchen.
Under a 2011 law, county ordinance required gaming revenue at taverns be "incidental" to the primary business of selling food and drinks. But incidental was never strictly defined, allowing bars like Dotty's to bring in over 50 percent of their revenues through slot machines, which some argued violated the spirit of the law.
Eide said Dotty's complied with all the requirements of the 2011 law and will work to comply with the new regulations approved today.
Today's hearing was significantly shorter than Tuesday's, which involved more than three hours of public comment from bar industry owners, employees and suppliers, plus representatives from the casino industry.
Much of the discussion over both days focused on a "grandfather clause" that would exempt already operating bars from the requirements of the new law. Ultimately commissioners decided that bars that started operating prior to 2006 won't have to make any changes. Neither will bars that already came into compliance with the 2011 law by embedding slot machines into the horizontal bar top.