GCB to gaming: Implement anti-harassment policies, or else

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As allegations continue to swirl around one of gaming's most legendary Titans, The first woman to lead the Gaming Control Board, Becky Harris, wants to make sure gaming gets it.

Thursday, the chair of the Gaming Control Board sent out a memo saying the board will "Enact regulations", to set out minimum "Procedures and requirements" on preventing sexual harassment.

“Well, I think it shows how the regulatory apparatus has always been responsive to public opinion,” says Prof. Dave Schwartz, the Director of UNLV's Center for Gaming Research.

Since January 26th, the day the Wall Street Journal ran with a story that accused Steve Wynn of being a serial sex abuser - charges he's denied - gaming has grappled with a response. The control board plans an anti-sex harassment workshop with input from the industry.

“Sexual harassment continues to be one of the most frequent complaints raised in the workplace,” Harris said in a statement. “How to appropriately address sexual harassment is an important and necessary discussion. I look forward to receiving input from Nevada licensees and the gaming industry at the upcoming regulation workshop.”

No date has been set for the meeting.

The Gaming Control Board is the investigative arm of the Nevada gaming commission. “The issues to be addressed are both relevant and significant to the operation of gaming establishments in this state so that all statutes and regulations are followed,” says commission chairman Tony Alamo. “I look forward to reviewing the results of the board’s workshop and hearing feedback from the industry.”

In the announcement, the control board also sent out what it considers effective policies, a checklist of 15 suggested items. Among them: an unequivocal statement that sexual harassment will not be tolerated; a reporting system; and assurances individuals will be protected from retaliation.

“While we have not had the opportunity to complete a review of the new minimum standards, as part of our new employee onboarding process, each team member is educated on our harassment-free policy and our commitment to a harassment-free workplace,” said Jennifer Forkish, Caesars Entertainment Vice President of Corporate Communications. “Our policies and training curriculum are updated regularly and all supervisors and managers must successfully complete anti-harassment training on an annual basis.”

Prof. Ann McGinley, the Co-Director of the Workplace Law Program at UNLV's Boyd Law School, applauds the attention of the Gaming Control Board. She cautions, however, that corporate anti-harassment policies can amount to little.

“The research shows that they don't have teeth and they're not effective,” she told me.

McGinley is an expert in employment law. She says at organizations where harassment happens, printed policies are often empty gestures.

“But if they really want to change things, they have to change the leadership at the top, they have to have a lot more women in leadership, but there are certain best practices they have to include in their behavior,” McGinley says.

Harris, now one of the most powerful gaming regulators in the nation, will try to steer an industry into a new era. In the wake of the Wynn allegations, Harris recently started an online harassment reporting portal on the GCB website, where people can report incidents of suspected misconduct in the gaming industry.

Harris and her fellow regulators also carry the biggest of sticks: the possibility a company where harassment happens, could lose its gaming license, and the money that comes with it.

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