At legislative hearing, Nevada AG Laxalt defends talk with gaming regulator

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt testifies regarding a conversation he had with the state's Gaming Control Board chairman back in 2016 (Sinclair Broadcast Group)

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt defended his meeting last year with the state's top gaming regulator, which had been recorded without his knowledge, during a hearing Wednesday at the legislative building in Carson City.

Laxalt appeared with Gaming Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett in front of lawmakers, who are taking up a bill in direct response to a meeting between the two that took place in March 2016.

Assembly Bill 513 would allow the Control Board to have independent counsel, rather than representation through the attorney general's office.

Laxalt said during the hearing that the Control Board had approached him to receive outside counsel on the issue.

Burnett had recorded the conversation, in which Laxalt asked the Gaming Control Board to file a brief in a lawsuit that would have supported Las Vegas Sands Corp. and its owner, Sheldon Adelson. The GCB ultimately did not file a brief.

Burnett told lawmakers on Wednesday that he had never recorded a conversation before his March 2016 meeting with Laxalt at a Reno coffee shop.

When asked why he decided to make a recording, he said he believed the circumstances were "a little bit odd," and that he wanted a record of what was said.

Burnett said he told GCB staff and the governor's office about the recording, and that general counsel advised him to go to the FBI with his concerns. Federal authorities did not find any evidence of corruption, however.

Laxalt said he hadn't done anything wrong in approaching Burnett, and that attorneys in his office already have independence. The brief he requested would have only favored confidentiality of casino documents turned over to the GCB, he told lawmakers.

"I think it's crystal clear that we were advocating on behalf of the state, on behalf of the GCB," he said during his testimony.

The audio recording captured on Burnett's phone was released as an exhibit on the Nevada legislative website before the hearing Wednesday morning. A transcript was released the day before, though Laxalt said it was full of errors, including an instance where his use of "philosophically" was transcribed as "Don't go soft on me."

Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, who introduced AB 513, released a joint statement with Sen. Joyce Woodhouse saying the hearing showed that Laxalt wanted the GCB to intervene on behalf of Sands and Adelson, which "has created an irreconcilable conflict."

Laxalt pushed back in a statement, saying he "acted ethically, legally and properly in discharging his duties on behalf of his client, the Nevada Gaming Control Board."

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