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Gaming Guru

 

Tom Nelson Left His Mark

2 October 2002

The task seemed overwhelming at first. In what can only be described as a surprise, voters in a statewide referendum voted to allow three casinos in the City of Detroit in 1996. The voter-initiated law was a bare bones statute. It contemplated a Gaming Control Board being appointed to license and regulate the industry. Both Republican Governor Engler and Democratic Attorney General Frank Kelley held an extraordinary joint press conference expressing the need for a more comprehensive statute and very thorough administrative rules.

The task of assisting the Legislature in developing Michigan's current system fell on the Executive Director of the Michigan Gaming Control Board Nelson Westrin and Assistant Attorney General Eric Eggan. In their efforts, they enlisted the help of an excellent lawyer, Tom Nelson.

Tom Nelson came to the Michigan Gaming Control Board after serving the State for over 20 years in a variety of capacities of public service. He was appointed as the Board's first Deputy Director in charge of two of the most important things that the Board does - licensing and enforcement.

In these roles, Tom played a lead role in developing and implementing the policies and procedures the Board uses to license the casinos, then suppliers, and their employees. He developed the system for vendor registration. He oversaw the pre-opening inspection and approval of casino facilities and operations. He also oversaw the development of the gaming laboratory, which tests and approves all electronic gaming devices at the casinos. After the regulatory system was developed, Tom oversaw the day-to-day regulatory oversight and enforcement of casino and supplier compliance with the Gaming Control and Revenue Act, the Board's Rules and the internal control policies of each casino.

At the September Gaming Control Board meeting, Tom's retirement was announced effective September 30th. At that meeting, several of the Board members recognized his tremendous contribution to our State. Chairman Roman Gribbs stated the following:

"I speak for everybody that has been with this organization from day one and all your contributions to the organization, that we are most grateful for your hard work, your dedication, and really your friendship."

Executive Director Nelson Westrin made the following observations:

"Tom's keen intellect and superior analytical and policy-making skills and his uncommon work ethic and professional diligence have served the public and the Board and its staff very well, and he's going to be greatly missed. For all of his efforts and his many contributions, Tom has certainly earned our respect, our appreciation, and the highest praise of all of us for a job well done."

Addressing the Board, Tom expressed his gratitude for the experience:

"I really feel very fortunate to have had the Board's support and Nelson's support these last five years and just the opportunity to participate in the establishment of a new state regulatory agency. It's not something very many people get the opportunity to do, and it kind of capped off my public service, and I really, really not only appreciated it, I enjoyed it. I considered it a privilege to be able to serve the people of the State of Michigan these last five years in this capacity. I think the Board has a fine and dedicated staff, and I have every confidence that they will have continued success in the future. And so I - once again I thank the Board and thank Director Westrin."

As the years go by and Michigan's casino gaming industry continues to evolve, the basic statutory and regulatory framework will endure. Undoubtedly, there will be some minor changes. In fact, in one of the last conversations I had with Tom, he was still looking at ways to improve the system balancing the need for strict regulatory protections with practical common sense. His efforts to continually improve will be missed. Tom truly left his mark.

David Waddell
David Waddell is an attorney for Regulatory Management Counselors, P.C. (RMC), which assists businesses in navigating the legislative, regulatory and licensing systems governing Michigan’s commercial and tribal casino industries. He is the co-author of The State of Michigan Gaming Law Legal Resource Book and one of the founders of The Michigan Gaming Newsletter.

David Waddell Websites:

www.michigangaming.com
David Waddell
David Waddell is an attorney for Regulatory Management Counselors, P.C. (RMC), which assists businesses in navigating the legislative, regulatory and licensing systems governing Michigan’s commercial and tribal casino industries. He is the co-author of The State of Michigan Gaming Law Legal Resource Book and one of the founders of The Michigan Gaming Newsletter.

David Waddell Websites:

www.michigangaming.com