Careers in Gaming Law: an Overview

Dynamic. Cutting-Edge. Diverse. These are just a few of the words that can be used to describe a legal career in gaming law. Long gone are the days of localized, one-dimensional pull-lever gaming. Today, a career in gaming law is multi-faceted, international, and the accompanying technology is literally evolving daily.

While it may be challenging for legal practitioners to keep abreast of the shifting landscape related to gaming laws and regulations, the good news for legal professionals is that the expansion of this area of the law is creating a wealth of professional legal opportunities which were nonexistent just twenty years ago. Below is a brief (non-exhaustive) overview of the opportunities that are available today for legal professionals in the area of Gaming Law.

HOTELS & CASINOS

When considering a legal career in gaming law, the first opportunity that comes to mind (for most) is working within the legal department of a Hotel & Casino (“Casino”) as in-house counsel.

In-House Counsel Traditionalist

While familiarity with the laws and regulations that apply to casinos is an underlying requirement for any attorney serving as in-house counsel at a Casino, the particular role of an in-house counsel may vary greatly depending on the size and structure of the Casino. For example, a smaller Casino may only have one or two in-house attorney(s) who handle the day-to-day legal responsibilities for the entire company. These attorneys are likely functioning in a more traditional, jack-of-all-trades role, relying on outside counsel to address specialized or particularly complex legal issues that arise. In this role, an in-house attorney may handle matters as varied as preparing a Casino’s corporate governance documents, to advising Casino executives on managing the risks of a real estate investment, responding to patron litigation demand letters, or responding to a state regulator’s formal investigation inquiries.

In-House Counsel Specialist

On the other end of the spectrum, instead of (or in addition to) hiring outside counsel to handle specialized legal issues, some larger Casinos structure their organization to function essentially as a small or medium-sized law firm, with multiple in-house attorneys who function as specialists in one or more areas, such as, intellectual property, employment law, real estate, tax, and privacy.

Compliance/Regulatory/Government Relations Counsel

Whether within a Casino’s legal department or in a separate department (and regardless of size), many Casinos are also now hiring professionals with law degrees to function as compliance, regulatory, government relations, or lobbying professionals. Compliance and regulatory professionals are familiar with applicable gaming regulations and may create compliance plans, create reporting structures, test internal controls, train employees, and conduct internal investigations to protect the Casino from violating gaming regulations. Government relations and lobbying professionals keep abreast of the legal and regulatory developments, inform Casino executives of these developments, and lobby for regulators and law-makers to create, amend, or remove certain laws or regulations impacting the Casino.

Non-Attorney Management/Business Role

Outside of a Casino’s formal legal department, there are still many opportunities within a Casino for those with legal training to build a career in the gaming industry. There are opportunities for cross-pollination between a purely-legal role within a Casino to a role in the management, operational, or financial business areas of the Casino (just to name a few examples). For example, one may begin working in a traditional legal role within a Casino, but gain such familiarity with the intricacies of the business-side of the Casino, that the attorney seeks to pursue a business or management role in the Casino. Likewise, an individual may have an accounting background and prefer to handle the auditing and financial duties within a Casino, with the ultimate goal of being promoted to Chief Financial Officer.

Boyd School of Law Graduates can be found pursuing legal careers with Hotels & Casinos including

  • Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
  • Sands Corporation
  • Wynn Las Vegas
  • MGM Resorts International
  • Aria Resort and Casino
  • Sands China Ltd. (Macao, China)
  • SJM Holdings Limited (Macao, China)

GAMING COMPANIES

Like Casinos, gaming companies are the innovators in the gaming industry, creating new gaming methods, physical and computerized technology, and other intricate developments related to gaming. Cashless wagering systems (think, fantasy football), mobile and interstate gaming devices, player tracking systems, and automatic shufflers are just a few of the notable innovations attorneys have mastered and analyzed to determine the legal and regulatory impacts of such innovations. Gaming companies range from the solo “start-up” to multi-national corporations. The size, structure, priorities and challenges of gaming companies vary vastly from company to company. Thus, the legal issues that arise also vary. However, business and management persons within gaming companies rely on their in-house attorneys to provide legal advice regarding whether the company’s new gaming technology or contests violate state or federal laws, represent the company in hearings with state regulators, prepare licensing applications, or manage outside counsel.

Boyd School of Law Graduates can be found pursuing legal careers with gaming companies

  • NYX Gaming
  • International Game Technology
  • CG Technology
  • Boyd Gaming
  • Fifth Street Gaming
  • Nevada Restaurant Services d/b/a Dotty's
  • William Hill
  • Walker Digital Table Systems
  • Global Cash Access
  • TCS John Huxley America
  • Azure Gaming America

STATE GOVERNMENT

The Governor’s Office

Attorneys working within a governor’s office are knowledgeable about the legal and political issues that arise in the gaming industry throughout a particular state. A gaming attorney working in the governor’s office advises the Governor and other senior government officials on legal, policy, or regulatory issues in the gaming industry.

State Gaming Regulatory Bodies and State/Local Legislatures

State regulators and legislatures create the laws and administrative processes relating to licensing applicants, conducting investigations and audits, ruling on disciplinary hearings, and adopting and enforcing regulations and laws.

The Attorney General’s Office

Typically, gaming law attorneys working within the State Attorney General’s Office assist regulators with drafting gaming regulations, and represent state regulators in disciplinary actions, tax hearings, and licensing disputes.

Boyd School of Law Graduates can be found pursuing gaming law careers in state government

  • Gaming Division of the Nevada Attorney General’s Office
  • Nevada Gaming Control Board

LAW FIRMS

Outside Counsel

Attorneys representing clients in the gaming law industry may act in an advisory, litigation, or transactional capacity by: providing their clients with advice to mitigate risk of a regulatory audit, representing their client in a lucrative real-estate acquisition, or representing their client in formal hearings regarding licensing disputes or alleged regulatory violations. The role of a gaming law attorney in private practice varies depending on client need. However, gaming law attorneys are typically expected to be familiar with the latest developments in gaming technology, regulations, and policy issues, so they can, in turn, advise clients appropriately.

Lobbyist

Gaming lobbyists represent their client’s interests before state legislative and regulatory bodies. A gaming lobbyist understands the political structure and process, the relevant government officials to address, and the most effective manner to convey a client’s interests.

Boyd School of Law Graduates can be found pursuing the gaming law careers in law firms

  • Ballard Spahr, LLP
  • Greenberg Traurig, LLP
  • Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck
  • Lewis Roca Rothgerber LLP
  • Snell & Wilmer
  • Jolley Urga Woodbury & Little
  • Marquis Aurbach Coffing
  • Albright, Stoddard, Warnick & Albright

NATIVE AMERICAN GAMING ATTORNEY

Tribal attorneys represent Native American Tribes or third-parties engaging in a business transaction on Native American land. Tribal attorneys face many of the same substantive legal issues, facts, and types of practices described by the attorneys in the sections above. However, in addition to being knowledgeable regarding state law and regulations, tribal gaming attorneys must also be familiar with the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (“IGRA”) and tribal-state politics and customs.