That’s rich: Vegas slot machine operator rejected over medical pot ties

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Editor’s note: This article is cross-posted from

When it comes to marijuana, Vice City wants to keep it down to just one vice at a time.

Nevada gaming executives ruled last week against a permit for a Las Vegas slot machine operator with a connection to medical marijuana.

They said, “No dice” – or no slot machines, to be exact.

For the first time, the state’s Gaming Control Board ruled on licensing for businesses linked to the state’s burgeoning pot industry.

Owners of the Crab Corner on South Rainbow Boulevard in Las Vegas were seeking a limited gaming license to operate five slot machines. They commissioned route operator Nevada Gaming Partners to manage the devices, but the three-member Control Board unanimously voted on Thursday to require the Crab Corner to find a different route operator.

According to Howard Stutz of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the denial was based on of Sarah Familian, wife of Nevada Gaming Partners owner Bruce Familian. Sarah is part of a group that owns eight percent of GB Sciences Nevada, one of the eighteen medical marijuana dispensary licenses issued by the Clark County Commission.

Nevada Gaming Partners is the route operator for machines in about 40 bars and restaurants in Las Vegas.

Splitting the business between husband and wife was not enough separation for A.G. Burnett, chair of the Control Board, as required for industry notice rules published in May by the agency.

“That is not enough of a disconnect for me,” Burnett told the Review-Journal. “I’m happy to go forward with this location. I just want another slot operator.”

In the memorandum, Board member Terry Johnson wrote that the husband/wife business split might fulfill legal requirements, but not enough for the agency’s satisfaction.

“It’s not within the spirit of the notice,” Johnson added.

The Board blames current federal regulations on marijuana for the need for harsh rules, regardless of the fact that Nevada legalized medical marijuana starting April 1.

“Unless the federal law is changed,” Johnson wrote in May, “the board does not believe investment or other involvement in medical marijuana facility or establishment by a person who has received a gaming approval or applied for a gaming approval is consistent with the effective regulation of gaming.”

One of the challenges the medical marijuana industry faces in Nevada, particularly in Clark County — including Las Vegas — is to find someone without a link to casinos or gambling.

Nevada Gaming Commission, when voting to uphold the Control Board’s directive in May, resulted in three of five commissioners – each one a lawyer — recusing himself or herself because clients of their firms were in the process of applying for medical marijuana licenses.

Despite last week’s ruling, several other owners of dispensary licenses issued in Clark County have casino industry ties.

And it is not as if GB Services has done anything wrong — they do not even have a medical marijuana license yet.

“I hope this wouldn’t affect this gaming license,” said attorney Jennifer Roberts, representing Nevada Gaming Partners to the Board. “No business has been conducted and nothing illegal has taken place.”

The Nevada Gaming Commission will issue a final ruling on the Board’s recommendation later this month.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.