When It Comes To Marijuana Money, Nevada Casinos Are In The Weeds

Written By Jessica Welman on August 4, 2017
marijuana plant

[toc]The introduction of legal recreational marijuana in Nevada is largely a success. However, it is not without its hiccups.

There was the “marijuana state of emergency” after shops ran out of product shortly after launch.

Now casinos are getting even more serious about the change in marijuana laws. The American Gaming Association (AGA) recently penned a letter to the Department of the Treasury. In the long letter, the group seeks clarity on several laws regarding money laundering and financial transactions. The letter also directly asks the group how to handle marijuana-related funds.

Is marijuana money still something casinos need to avoid?

The AGA is more specifically addressing the increasingly murky status of marijuana money.

In the past, the Department of Treasury discouraged casinos from accepting money tied to the drug industry. Over the past few years, both casinos and the government are increasingly concerned about money laundering via gambling.

With that in mind, casinos are reluctant to accept customers with ties to the marijuana industry for fear of the government viewing the property as complicit in money laundering.

In the letter, AGA President and CEO Geoff Freeman specifically asks:

“Accordingly, we seek clarification of the industry’s obligation in preparing SARs for individuals
who own or are employed by such state-licensed marijuana-related businesses. Specifically,
we need to know whether and how casinos should use the 2014 marijuana guidance for filing
SARs on patrons whose gaming funds appear or are known to be from marijuana-related

Federal regulation and state laws clash when it comes to cannabis

The other issue at the heart of the confusion is the Treasury’s insistence the state laws have no bearing on federal banking regulations. Since marijuana is still illegal on a federal level, state marijuana regulations do not matter.

Therefore, the banking network known as FinCEN is under the obligation to report any marijuana-related financial transactions to the Treasury department.

It appears casinos might get some clarity on the issue thanks to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He wants to review marijuana policy. However, as the Washington Post notes, he could be cracking down on legal weed rather than relaxing federal regulations.

Casino industry remains extremely cautious

There are currently eight states with some form of regulated, legal marijuana. That number is trending upwards, but the situation seems to only be murkier as the months pass.

Casinos are extremely cautious in the meantime. So much so, Wynn recently ousted a potential player simply for having an ownership stake in a perfectly legal marijuana media company.

Tourists and Nevada residents certainly are not thrilled Nevada casinos are taking such a hard line. Unfortunately, until there is some clarity from Washington, there is too much at stake for casinos to risk anything for reefer.

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Jessica Welman

Jessica Welman is a longtime member of the poker media. She has worked as a tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour, co-hosted a podcast for Poker Road, and served as the managing editor for WSOP.com. A graduate of the University of Southern California and Indiana University, Welman is not only a writer but also a producer. She has been involved for livestreams for the WSOP and WPT and worked as a consultant on many other poker productions. She can be found on Twitter @jesswelman.

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