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February 21, 2019

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Former Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval joins MGM Resorts

Brian Sandoval

Stephan Savoia / AP

Nevada Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval responds to reporter’s questions about health care and the opioid epidemic after a session called “Curbing The Opioid Epidemic” at the first day of the National Governor’s Association meeting Thursday, July 13, 2017, in Providence, R.I.

Updated Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019 | 1:11 p.m.

Former Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval is joining casino giant MGM Resorts International to help push the company's global expansion efforts, particularly in Japan, and work on state-level public policy related to sports betting.

The casino operator named Sandoval president of global gambling development Tuesday, a day after he left office. The popular and moderate Republican was barred by term limits from running for re-election in November.

"Governor Sandoval brings an unparalleled level of skill, leadership and experience to the company, and we will benefit greatly from his in-depth expertise in gaming, public policy and economic development," MGM's chairman and CEO Jim Murren said in a statement.

Sandoval will return to the private sector after more than two decades in public service. He was as a state legislator, gambling regulator, state attorney general and federal judge before being elected governor in 2010 and earning a second term in 2014.

His efforts focused on Japan could prove crucial to the Las Vegas-based company.

Japan's parliament in July approved a law allowing up to three casino-resorts to open in the wealthy nation. The casinos are unlikely to open before the mid-2020s. But U.S.-based casino operators, including MGM, Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands Corp., have expressed interest in bidding for a license. MGM set up a Japanese subsidiary in 2014 when the country started discussing casinos.

Supporters of the effort to open casino-resorts in the island say the properties could draw additional and more affluent tourists. Opponents, however, argue that Japan already has "pachinko" pinball parlors and wagering on horse, auto, bicycle and boat racing, and expanding legalized gambling would fuel organized crime and compound gambling addiction.

Sandoval traveled to Japan in August with the National Governors Association. A delegation met with Japanese officials to offer Nevada's expertise in the gambling industry as the Asian nation moves forward with casino-resorts. Sandoval also met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The former governor's work that will focus on sports betting in the U.S. will come as more states consider whether to approve that form of gambling. The debates in statehouses across the U.S. are the result of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that last year ended Nevada's effective monopoly on sports wagering.

"MGM Resorts is a global leader in gaming and entertainment, and I look forward to joining the MGM team led by Jim Murren, someone who I greatly respect," Sandoval said in a statement. "Jim has formed critical relationships in Japan and in sports, and I look forward to building upon this strong foundation."

The expansion of sports betting in the U.S. has prompted a flurry of deals, including one that made MGM an official gambling partner of Major League Baseball in the U.S. and Japan.

The company on Tuesday also announced that President Bill Hornbuckle will now lead global casino marketing with a particular focus on driving MGM's overall growth in the Chinese enclave of Macau. The company operates two casino-resorts in the former Portuguese colony that has become the world's biggest gambling market, including the $3.4 billion MGM Cotai that opened in February.