Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak signed legislation on Tuesday that guarantees the rights of laid-off gaming and tourism industry workers to return to their jobs.
A few days earlier, on June 4, he also signed a bill that creates the Esports Technical Advisory Committee.
SB386, referred to as the "Right to Return" bill, was announced alongside a host of other bills that earned the governor's approval on Tuesday. Gaming representatives and the Culinary Union struck a deal on the high-profile worker rights legislation with less than a week left in the 120-day legislative session, agreeing to limit the scope of the bill and exempting certain employee classes including managers and stage performers, as reported by Patch.
An amendment was added to exempt small businesses attached to casino resorts from complying with the legislation. The change excused small restaurants and vendors that had 30 or fewer employees prior to the pandemic.
As part of the deal, revisions were made to SB4, a bill from the 2020 special session last summer that included government-imposed health and safety standards meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as well as expanded liability protections for major casino resorts. The changes relaxed requirements on cleaning, such as wiping down minibars, headboards and decorative items on beds, and changed directives to clean throughout the day to instead call for daily cleaning.
Critics of the legislation raised concerns that the bill in its original form would have made it too easy for former employees to sue. The new law offers recourse through the Labor Commissioner or through the courts, but only after an employee notifies an employer of any alleged violation and waits at least 15 days for resolution of the issue.
The Nevada Resort Association took a neutral position in return for those concessions, though not all casino operators were on board. Some of the casino industry's largest companies, including MGM Resorts International, Wynn Resorts and Caesars Entertainment, backed the changes. Opposition arose from Las Vegas locals casino companies.
In a statement, Culinary Secretary-Treasurer Geoconda Argüello-Kline said passage of the legislation would "protect over 350,000 hospitality workers" in Clark County and Washoe County. "At the height of the pandemic 98 percent of Culinary Union members were laid off and currently only 50 percent are back to work," Argüello-Kline said. "While a majority of unionized hospitality workers already have extended recall protections in their contracts, most hospitality workers protected by the new SB386 Right to Return law are not unionized."
South Point Casino-Hotel attorney Barry Lieberman said of the final deal that was struck that many of the changes were still "particularly onerous for non-union smaller nonrestricted licensees." Lieberman, a long time Nevada gaming attorney and close adviser to South Point owner Michael Gaughan, said several amendments were "a confusing patchwork of vague, burdensome and non-helpful requirements," and forced employers "to guess at their peril as to what the bill actually requires them to do." He suggested the changes infringed on an employer's right to rehire casino workers who have "superior skills" as opposed to other laid-off workers.
Nevada State Bill 165, which was introduced by state Sen. Ben Kieckhefer (R-Reno) as a vehicle to help spur economic development in the state, was passed and signed by Gov. Steve Sisolak with “significant changes,” which were due in large part to video game publishers and tournament organizers.
Originally, the bill sought to create an Esports Regulatory Commission that would function much like the Nevada Athletic Commission which licenses and regulates sports such as boxing and mixed martial arts. However, before the time to vote arrived, the idea of a regulatory commission was changed and amended to that of a technical advisory committee that would work under the auspices of the Nevada Gaming Control Board to give counsel and best practices as it relates to esports wagering.
The new law requires the Nevada Gaming Control Board to appoint members of the Committee.
“The original proposals would create an entirely new regulatory body which was clearly unsettling, primarily to the video game publishers,” Kieckhefer told The Esports Observer on Wednesday. “There was really strong pushback from them regarding that concept. The reality is that they are unregulated just about anywhere in the world and in starting to do so was, to them, unsettling.”