Trying to find a job after a felony conviction is no walk in the park. Getting your life back on track can be especially frustrating if you’ve been rejected by employers who are not keen on hiring felons.
Unsurprisingly, if you live in Nevada, the gaming industry is one attractive option for employment. It’s been reported that casinos in Nevada generated $11.9 billion in revenue in 2018. Approximately sixty-five percent of that came from slot machines.
If you’re not sure what aspect of the gaming industry you’d like to get into, there is a wealth of information available online for analysis. The Nevada Gaming Control Board website has monthly revenue breakdowns based on geographic location, game type, number of units for each type of game, the win dollar amount and the win percentage. You can access the PDF’s here.
Based on the analysis of this data, a single slot machine can bring in nearly $80,000 per year. New technology such as online and interactive games have attracted customers who may not have been interested in traditional gaming in the past.
If you’re considering getting into the gaming industry, you’ll need to spend quite a bit of time doing your homework. Whether you’re thinking about manufacturing and distributing or plan to simply work in a casino or operate a gaming establishment, you’ll need to get a Nevada Gaming License.
What is a Nevada Gaming License?
A gaming license is a permit issued by the state or local jurisdiction authorizing the holder to “deal, operate, carry on or conduct any gambling game, gaming device, slot machine, race book or sports pool. The license can also be used to operate a gaming salon”.
There are three main categories of licenses, Restricted, Non-Restricted and Online. Under those categories are numerous subcategories that depend on the venue/location, other businesses co-located at the location, classification of the game or machine, etc. You can find a comprehensive list of licenses and their subcategories at the Nevada Gaming Commission Website here.
Even though casino’s have often been portrayed in the media as being run by mafia types, the reality is that the gaming industry is highly regulated internally and by the government. This may lead you to wonder what your chances are of getting a Nevada Gaming License with a felony on your record.
Can a Felon get a Nevada Gaming License?
There is no state or federal law preventing a felon from owning a gaming business. If you’re looking to simply work at a casino, a lot will depend on the company you are applying to.
If you’re applying for a license to manufacture, distribute or operate a gaming salon, the government will have broad discretion on whether to grant you a license or not.
The type of license you are applying for can determine whether your conviction will be a deal-breaker or not. Applying for a menial job on the casino floor will not require as thorough a background screening and investigation as an owner, manager, security or IT position might.
The Nevada Gaming Commission states your application may be denied if your felony conviction was within the past ten years and involved gambling or larceny against a gaming establishment. However, you can request a hearing if this is your situation. If the Commission approves of your registration after the hearing, you can be licensed. If you find yourself contemplating a hearing, it would be wise to consult with an attorney specializing in such matters beforehand to prepare.
How to apply for a Nevada Gaming License
Whether you want to work at a casino or open your own, you will have to apply for a Nevada Gaming License. The basic process is similar, but the information required increases exponentially with the level of responsibility of your position.
The first step will be to register with the Nevada Gaming Commission. You cannot get a job without being registered, though being registered and passing the application process will not guarantee you will be hired.
For complete information, you can find a copy of the Nevada State Gaming Control Board Employee Registration here. Please note, you are required to have a valid Social Security card and you must be caught up on your child support payments. If you fall behind on child support, your license can be suspended.
All levels of applicants will be required to fill out an application and have their fingerprints taken. Depending on the level of responsibility, they will require a more intensive application and a more thorough criminal background investigation.
A restricted gaming license is for locations with 15 slot machines or less. This license requires a comprehensive application, fingerprints and a background check and criminal background investigation.
A non-restricted gaming license will be required for an owner of a gaming establishment with more than 15 slot machines or who owns 10% or more of the business. Any officer of a gaming company will also need to be licensed, for example the CEO, CFO, president and secretary.
Approval or Denial
Even if your license is approved by the commission, whether you are hired or not because of your felony record depends on many different factors.
As mentioned previously, the gaming industry in Nevada is a multi-billion-dollar industry. Many people’s livelihood depends on the integrity and security of the gaming industry as well as the taxes collected from it. For this reason, it’s very important that hiring standards are upheld and criminal background checks are implemented across the board.
The company you are applying to may have a policy in place barring them from hiring someone with a felony conviction or a felony conviction of a certain nature. If you are denied in this case, you can try for an appeal, but you’ll be fighting an uphill battle. Sometimes smaller companies that don’t have hard and fast policies will be more open to giving you a chance.
The nature of the felony is also important. Someone who has been convicted of fraud, embezzlement or stealing from a casino will probably not be viewed too favorably by a casino hiring manager. However, if the crime would have no bearing on trusting a person in a job handling money and interfacing with customers, it may not be a deal breaker.
Rehabilitation is also a key factor. If it has been decades since your conviction and you’ve completed all of your obligations to the court and had a clean record since, the casino may be convinced you have been rehabilitated and your past history does not dictate who you are today.
When applying for a license, honesty is the best policy. If you lie about your criminal convictions and it’s discovered later, you can end up having your license rejected or worse.
The comprehensive background checks are not something you want to mess around with. You will be asked about your personal life, family, education, marital status, employment history, housing history, any licenses you may have or that have been suspended. They will ask about any criminal or civil litigation you have been involved with and will likely ask for character references.
The information you provide will potentially be checked and investigated by the FBI, DEA, local police, gaming regulatory agencies, organized crime task force, customs and immigration (if applicable) and liquor licensing agencies.
You may also be asked about personal financial information including your salary, assets and liabilities, bankruptcies, taxes and financial investments.
These are serious organizations and they will dig deep. Depending on the agency, they may have access to information that has been set aside or expunged. Therefore, you should always be one hundred percent truthful on your application.
Unfortunately, there is still a lot of gray area and undertainty when it comes to granting registration and licensing. As you can see from this and this news article, there aren’t clear guidelines about what type of felony will or won’t disqualify you. Sometimes appealing for a hearing can help move your application past an initial barrier. Another consideration is the changing landscape of certain drug convictions and the legalization of marijuana. If you aren’t approved initially, that doesn’t mean you are barred forever. It could be worth your time to consult an attorney with expertise in the gaming industry to find out what options you have. And you can always try again later or at a different establishment, and hope for a different outcome.
Lastly, having your record expunged, if possible, can give you the best chance of getting a job in the gaming industry.