(Michael Chamberlain/Nevada Business Coalition) – Big Gaming won its battle to destroy competition at the Nevada Gaming Commission last month. While Dotty’s and similar businesses now have a choice –spend a hundred grand plus to remodel each location or shut them down – the impact of the decision could spread far beyond these few companies.
What happens next? What happens if Dotty’s decides the fight isn’t worth it or the costs to comply aren’t affordable? What happens when the customers of Dotty’s don’t go to the big casinos to gamble? Who’s going to be next on Big Gaming’s hit list?
There is a reason these people choose to go to Dotty’s. They don’t want to sit in a dark, noisy casino with no windows and scantily-clad waitresses scampering about.
If the worst comes to pass and Dotty’s and the other taverns like them are forced to shut down at least some of their locations, it is unlikely their former customers will go to the big casinos. The casinos simply don’t offer what they want. That is why the Dotty’s model has been so successful in the first place.
So what will they do? Where will they go? More than likely they’ll end up in convenience stores and grocery stores.
If that happens, could convenience stores be the next target? At least some are concerned about it.
Gaming constitutes a significant portion of the revenue of convenience stores, even though they are limited by law to seven machines per location. Of the owners we were able to talk to the numbers ranged as high as 50% of the store’s revenue.
Changing the regulations to prohibit gaming in convenience stores, from a technical standpoint, would be much easier than what was required to regulate the Dotty’s model out of business. Instead of the convoluted language describing sizes and lengths and hours of operation and restaurants and amenities, merely striking a handful of words would eliminate gaming from convenience stores.
Most convenience store owners are franchisees, small businesspeople who operate one or two stores and take a hands-on approach to running them – working 6 or 7 days a week. Many of them don’t have the luxury of taking the time away to deal with politics but that doesn’t mean they’re not worried.
Kevin Clauretie, who owns a 7-11 in northwest Las Vegas with four slot machines, said he’s concerned about convenience stores potentially being a target. He stated he’s always worried about government intruding in business.
One industry group reportedly hired a lobbyist to help protect the interests of its members against a potential attack by Big Gaming. Some convenience store owners believe their corporate franchisors would help them if they became a target.
The Big Gamers and their allies claim they’re not going to come after anyone else. At least one of the businesses involved on their side sent a representative to soothe the fears of a group of convenience store owners.
But just because you’re safe today doesn’t mean you will be tomorrow. Big Gaming has shown itself to be absolutely ruthless when it comes to protecting its interests and is prone to changing its mind as its circumstances change. Dotty’s operated for more than 15 years before they became a target.
Convenience store owners and other operators of gaming machines need to be prepared.
First they came for Dotty’s,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t Dotty’s.
Then they came for the convenience stores,
and I didn’t speak out because I didn’t own a convenience store.
Then they came for the grocery stores,
and I didn’t speak out because I didn’t own a grocery store.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
(Michael Chamberlain is Executive Director for Nevada Business Coalition.)