Nevada Gaming Control Board Devoting More Resources to Online Gambling Regulation
Nevada gambling regulators are devoting more resources to Internet-based gaming these days. A.G. Burnett, the chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, spoke about “structural changes” to his panel’s staff that better reflected the level of online gambling taking place in the state. Citing high-profile attacks on other commercial websites, he also asked for additional financing to enhance the security on the Gaming Control Board’s online website.
Burnett’s comments came in testimony before the Nevada Senate Finance Committee on Thursday. The chairman said his department is transferring 10 positions from Investigations Division into several other departments, including three to the Cybercrime Investigations office.
$4 Million Budget Request
During his talk with the Finance Committee, A.G. Burnett submitted a $4 million budget request for improvements to the board’s online information system. In particular, Burnett wanted to upgrade electronic security on the board’s online information system.
In asking for the budget improvement, the Control Board chairman spoke about the high-profile security breaches at the large corporations, such as Home Dept and Sony. Those hacker attacks has Burnett concerned that something similar could happen to the control board’s website.
Las Vegas Sands Cyberattack
He didn’t mention it, but Burnett migth as well have been talking about a case closer to home. In February 2014, the Las Vegas Sands Corporation was the target of a cyber-attack which shut down the electronic systems of the $14 billion a year gaming company.
Hundred of People Calling IT
James Pfeiffer, a support staff member in the Sands’risk-management department in Las Vegas at the time, said everyone from marketing managers to accountants were unable to access the Internet. Pfeiffer told Bloomberg, “Hundreds of people were calling IT to tell them their computers weren’t working.”
At the time, customers of the Las Vegas Sands were concerned that their vital information and credit card data had been hacked. Casino operators maintain large databases in order to market to their longtime customers, including slots club data and the information of people who stay at the hotel. Luckily, federal investigators and LVS tech support eventually determined that information had not been compromised.
The Las Vegas Sands cyberattack was a good example of the type of trouble websites associated with the entertainment and leisure industries can attract. Iranian hackers eventually were blamed by investigators. The prime motive for that attack may have been political, because LVS chairman Sheldon Adelson–a good friend of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu–publicly had called for Israeli airstrikes against Iranian nuclear energy research facilities.
James Lewis, a senior fellow at the Washington DC-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, says that attack had to be ordered by the Iranian government itself. Lewis said, “This isn’t the kind of business you can get into in Iran without the government knowing.”
Paul Phua and International Politics
It might sound far-fetched that cyberattacks might be launched at the Control Board’s website, but the regulation of Las Vegas casinos is certain to bring the Control Board into contact with international figures. In July 2014, Control Board agents partnered with FBI agents to raid an alleged illegal World Cup sports betting ring operating out of Caesars Palace. When Caesars’ staff became suspicious of the activity of several Malaysian customers, they alerted the Control Board.
Eventually, the man arrested for operating a sports betting racket, Paul Phua, turned out to have international connections. The Home Minister of Malaysia has since claimed that Phua does important work for Malaysian national security. Phua had also served as the non-resident ambassador for San Marino to the small European nation of Montenegro for three years.
A Litany of Cyberattack Cases
While the Phua case wasn’t likely to bring a hacker response from Malaysian hackers, that’s only because Malaysia is a westernized and democratic nation. Cyberattacks allegedly have been linked to state hackers from Iran, China, and North Korea in the past year. When Russia’s Vladimir Putin was trying to show his displeasure at Estonia joining NATO a few years ago, Estonia was the target of Russian cyberattacks.
Therefore, it’s a good idea for the state of Nevada to protect its gaming regulators from cyberattack. No decision has been made yet on whether AG Burnett and the Nevada Gaming Control Board will receive the funding it wants.