A Q&A Conversation With John T. Moran Jr. and John T. Moran III
The roots of Nevada law run very deep in the Moran family. Similar to generations before them, Las Vegas Senior Counsel John T. Moran Jr. and John T. Moran III have decades of experience in legal practice and have established one of the most well-known gaming law practices in Nevada.
The Morans recently discussed their practice, what it’s like working as a father-son team, and how they were inspired by their family to practice law.
Let’s start with the family aspect, how were each of you inspired by your fathers to practice law?
John III: Back when we were growing up, we were told to become a doctor or a lawyer, so my sister became the doctor and I became a lawyer. Watching my dad and following him around though gave me a passion for this. It’s genetic and in my DNA. After having clerked for a District Court Judge, I was offered a position with the District Attorney’s Office. I chose to go to work with my father and I am sure glad I made that decision. Today we are working with each other much as we did upwards of two decades ago before he was appointed to the Nevada Gaming Commission in 2005. But prior to his joining the Commission, he had given me the tools to manage a firm successfully and, also, provide the level of legal service all clientele are deserving. Nearly 20 years later, we’re back in the saddle again.
John Jr: My dad was inspirational because everyone on his side of the family worked and had a job. My father was the first member of our family to go to college but dropped out to serve in World War II. After the war, he went into law enforcement as a police officer and retired after serving three consecutive, four-year, terms as the elected Sheriff for Clark County, State of Nevada. When I got back from Vietnam, I went to the University of Nevada Las Vegas (then Nevada Southern) and served in the Sheriff’s Department as a Deputy Sheriff. That was inspired by my dad. He told us to never give up, do a good job, and follow the rules. I attribute my work ethic to my parents, both of which very hard and dedicated workers.
How did you guys first get into gaming law?
John Jr: It actually started when our late Senator Harry Reid became chair of the Nevada Gaming Commission in the mid-1970s. He was also a gaming attorney and we shared some of the same cases. When he couldn’t take work from his gaming clients anymore due to his work with the commission, he assigned some of those clients to me. We started small from there and built it up, but many of our clients date back to that starting point in the ‘70s. We’ve represented a few celebrities during that time, including Jerry Lewis, Frank Sinatra, Jon Bon Jovi, and Sylvester Stallone.
What’s one part of your work that you’ve been consistent with through your years of practice?
John Jr: Gaming has been a very profitable part of my and JT’s practice, but we’ve made a lot of friends along the way. I have a rule in my practice that if you’re going to represent someone in gaming or otherwise, you should always strive to make them your friend. The majority of my friends are clients, and the majority of my clients are friends. It makes for an enjoyable law practice coupled with professionalism and doing good things for friends.
How did you decide to join Clark Hill two years ago?
John III: The days of servicing clientele as a boutique law firm are over and legal gaming or gambling has expanded all throughout the world – not just Nevada and not just New Jersey. And the gaming companies followed suit, of course. I was approached by several top-tier national and international firms wishing to add gaming to their portfolio of areas of specialty. It was time to shift gears and after an introduction to leadership with Clark Hill, the option of “who” or which Firm to join became very clear. Current opportunities for lawyers in the gaming sector are endless and extraordinary and Clark Hill gave us the platform for which to compete in the global marketplace.
How did the evolution of gaming law necessitate a move to Clark Hill?
John III: Gaming is simply an additional amenity to any retail-oriented business. It is everywhere and it continues to grow. And the legal work is not simply filing applications for privileged licensure in this jurisdiction or that. Rather and for instance, it is working with publicly-traded companies that have a need for competent, ethical, and independent lawyers prepared and trained to provide real-time advice and legal services. They are looking for a full-service law firm such as ours with talent in place to handle the variety of legal hurdles and obstacles that arise from time to time.
In the past decade, we have all seen traditional gaming revenues be exceeded by nongaming revenues such as food & beverage, sports and entertainment, retail, etc. I see it all as hospitality in general and the opportunities to serve this “merged” industry are infinite.
What questions are clients approaching you with recently?
John III: The bandwidth becomes wider and wider. One day we could be assisting a client with the planning of a land-based casino overseas and another day we can be advising on the preparation of filings with say the SEC. The internet (ether) continues to grow and with that we are seeing much new game technology. Providing advice to Gaming Compliance Committees is regular and normal and in between we are bringing current and new gaming licensees forward for determinations of suitability. Our Legislative Session in Nevada has ended and we are focused on providing legislative recaps, as well.
Much has changed in gaming very rapidly nationwide, but what changes do you see on the horizon?
John Jr: I served as Member and Chair of the Nevada Gaming Commission for 15 years, and I’ve pushed for more information and education about a State Lottery. We started gaming here, but we don’t have a State Lottery. If we got one established, it would create hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues that can be earmarked for things such as the homeless, military veterans, childhood development, education, and more. I’m hoping that at some point a “lottery” will get fully vetted so we can join the other jurisdictions but we must always be mindful of the opinions of all of our stakeholders – whether for or against. But there definitely needs to be further discussion
John III: Integration and incorporation of blockchain and cryptocurrency technology could revolutionize the gaming world, for one. Another is tribal (Native American Indian) involvement in gaming both on and off the reservation. Tribes have financial resources and can be more liberal than other companies with regard to trial and error. They all want to join this ecosystem in Nevada and elsewhere. And then you start looking at the proliferation of gaming in SE Asia. We are keeping an eye on all of it.
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