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LAS VEGAS-Nevada gaming regulators will consider allowing institutional investors to acquire greater stakes in Nevada’s publicly held gaming companies without triggering the burdensome licensing process, which can soak up lots of time and money without any assurance of success. The unlicensed limit is currently 15%; the regulation change to be considered would raise it to 25%, which could help casino resort operators pay down their heavy debt loads.

The process was prompted by a petition from Frank Schreck, a former member of the Nevada Gaming Commission who is now chair of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck’s gaming law group. His clients have included Wynn Resorts, MGM Mirage, Harrah’s Entertainment, Pinnacle Entertainment, Station Casinos, Kerzner International, David Bonderman and Carl Icahn.

Nevada Gaming Commission chairman Peter Bernhard directed staff to work with the state attorney general’s office to review the reasoning behind the existing 15% limit, according to a transcript of the meeting. He also directed staff to research whether raising the limit would run afoul of any SEC regulations.

The Nevada Gaming Commission’s executive secretary Brian Duffrin tells GlobeSt.com that the next step will be public workshops and discussions in both northern and southern Nevada. After that, the issue goes in front of the Nevada Gaming Control Board. If the board approves it, the issue would go before the overarching Nevada Gaming Commission for a final decision, possibly later this year, Duffrin says.

Schreck previously successfully petitioned the Commission to increase the stake limit to 15% from 10%. He also helped create the process whereby institutional investors involved in the restructuring of a Nevada public gaming company may convert debt to equity without having to be licensed. He was unavailable Wednesday for comment.

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