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Duo Brings Expertise To Groundbreaking Gaming Regulation Center

Center helps regulators and policymakers understand current issues and is establishing best regulatory practices.

Business and Community  |  Sep 2, 2016  |  By Aleza Freeman
André Wilsenach and Jennifer Roberts

UNLV’s International Center for Gaming Regulation executive director André Wilsenach and associate director Jennifer Roberts. (R. Marsh Starks/UNLV Photo Services)

As the first state in the country to embrace gaming as a legitimate industry, Nevada is the ideal place to house the recently created International Center for Gaming Regulation (ICGR).

The partnership between UNLV’s International Gaming Institute and the William S. Boyd School of Law was launched in 2015. With the addition of executive director André Wilsenach and associate director Jennifer Roberts, the real work is now under way.

A Las Vegas newcomer, Wilsenach is not a lawyer. He is an economist with a long history in gaming policy and regulation. A South Africa native, he was appointed by the Mandela government to serve on a board to advise government on the legalization of land-based gaming in support of post-apartheid era nation-building. He also helped pioneer Internet gambling regulations for the Alderney Gambling Control Commission in the United Kingdom.

“This is the first time in my life that I’ve lived in a jurisdiction that is so visibly pro-gaming,” admitted Wilsenach. “Normally it’s just the opposite.”

Roberts, meanwhile, has a strong background in gaming law. She is an adjunct professor at the Boyd School of Law, teaching Fundamentals of Casino Operations & Management, Resort Hotel Casino Law, and other gaming law courses. She moved to Las Vegas from Utah after law school and worked for the guru of gaming law, Bob Faiss of Lionel Sawyer & Collins. As a gaming lawyer, she made regular appearances before the Nevada Gaming Control Board and Nevada Gaming Commission.

“It’s just such an interesting industry,” Roberts said of gaming. “I consider it a brand of entertainment. It had a really dark side to it in the beginning; but seeing it morph into a legitimate, regulated industry, I find that really interesting.”

Roberts supports Wilsenach in developing the purpose of the ICGR, everything from helping regulators understand current issues to establishing best regulatory practices.

“The games that you play have structured regulations behind them,” she explained. “A slot machine has to have a certain payout (percentage) set. There are rules on how to handle cash and jackpot winnings. All of that is regulation, and a lot of that comes from gaming law that sets policy for having gaming. (One) primary policy is to help protect the public.”

With the spread of gaming worldwide, ICGR is a much-needed resource, creating tools and educational opportunities for policymakers, regulators, gaming lawyers, law enforcement, and gaming industry leaders. It also will develop and maintain the primary global source for regulatory research and information, including the first database of scientific findings on regulatory issues and a repository of various regulations, test results, and related data.

“There are emerging markets in Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and elsewhere that will all need guidance in operating and functioning according to the highest regulatory standards,” said Wilsenach. “Regulators and operators in those regions will be able to turn to UNLV’s new center for that guidance.”

Roberts said it’s groundbreaking to do this type of work in Las Vegas because so much of the history and evolution of the industry took place here.

“Think about how much gaming is in other cities and other (places) across the world. Well Nevada was the first in the United States,” she said.  

Wilsenach agreed. “Right from the top, gaming is a big focus here — it’s just another industry,” he said, adding, “It’s so refreshing.”

And perhaps it’s because they know too much that neither of them spend much time gambling.

“When I cross state lines, I play the lottery,” said Roberts, admitting she knows her chances of winning are low. “I have a better chance of being eaten by a shark.”