When it comes to gaming law, UNLV's Boyd Law School wants to be the intellectual capital of the specialty, much like New York University is the place to go to learn about tax law.
To achieve that goal, the school has introduced a master of laws (LL.M) in gaming law and regulation. The program is the first of its kind in the nation and its first students are already on campus for the fall semester.
The school sees the degree as a natural complement to its existing juris doctor program, which already offers its students more gaming courses than any other law school in the country.
"Gaming is a dynamic and growing industry both in the United States and around the world, and UNLV Law School wants to be the premier center for training in gaming law in the nation," said Daniel Hamilton, dean of the school.
"We are taking advantage of Nevada's place as an industry leader in gaming, and it is really one of the law school's great comparative advantages in this market. It has been created in partnership with the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration. UNLV, as a whole, is working to become what Gov. Brian Sandoval has called the intellectual capital of gaming."
Hamilton credits state Sen. Mark Lipparelli, R-Las Vegas, as being instrumental in securing seed funding for the new center at UNLV.
As gaming grows around the globe, the law school staff saw an increased need for an advanced degree program to turn out attorneys knowledgeable about the laws and issues facing the industry.
"Gaming law, like tax law, is a highly regulated and idiosyncratic area of the law," Hamilton said. "Additional training for lawyers after law school will benefit them a great deal either in beginning a career in gaming law or staying current on innovations and changes in the field.
The LL.M degree requires 24 credit hours and is expected to take a year to complete.
"LL.M.s are proliferating around the country in tax law, and there is clearly an unmet demand for master's level training in gaming law as well. It makes perfect sense for UNLV to provide that training. So, in Texas, they each oil and gas law; in Los Angeles they teach entertainment law, and this is where people should come to be trained in gaming law."
In Nevada, there was a big change in sports wagering this year with the passage of Senate Bills 443 and 445. SB443 allows sports entity wagering, while SB445 allows Nevada race and sports books operators to manage back-end functions — such as setting the lines, managing the data and managing the risk — in Nevada. SB445 is key to growth in the industry if sports wagering is opened up in new jurisdictions — both foreign and domestic.
"We've definitely heard from lawyers who want to know more about sports wagering, and in particular, fantasy sports and where the law is and where the law might be going," Hamilton said. "So, this is a very fluid and contested area of the law right now, and lawyers are quite rightly trying to get ahead of the game. Sports wagering will definitely be a part of the curricula and might be the focus of a tailored executive education program."
But it's not the only hot area.
"I would say we've seen a great deal of demand for lawyers in the field to know more about where the field is going in areas ranging from data privacy to online gaming to compliance with state and federal laws," Hamilton said. "And we've seen interest nationally from people around the country who want to get into gaming law in states that are now turning to gaming in a serous way.
"As more and more states enhance and build out their gaming industries, we've seen demand from lawyers in those states who want to learn more and more about this new area of law in their state."
Another positive thing about the program is the wealth of knowledgeable gaming attorneys available in Las Vegas to serve as instructors for the course. Hamilton said instructors for the program will come from full-time faculty members and adjunct faculty.
Jennifer Roberts, a partner at Duane Morris LLP in Las Vegas, specializes in gaming law, and she'll teach casino operations and management in the new LL.M. program. The course will focus on the business issues along with the legal issues involved in casino operations.
"When you have 48 states that have some form of legalized gaming, which means regulatory systems, laws and really developed businesses that need legal support in the gambling industry," Roberts said. "Someone having that specialized knowledge is definitely needed — not only nationally but internationally as well."