02/15/2002 12:00AM

Internet gaming, nuclear waste issues of concern for Nevadans


It was a roller-coaster week of political comments and action for the residents of Nevada.

The week started out with industry leaders taking a positive look at Las Vegas during the American Gaming Summit, and quickly degenerated when Mayor Oscar Goodman called the United States Energy Secretary, Spencer Abraham, a "fathead" after Abraham recommended that Nevada's Yucca Mountain would be a safe repository for the nation's nuclear waste. On Friday came word that President Bush also was going to approve the proposal.

And, if that weren't enough, Representative Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) had a U.S. House subcommittee gasping as she called for a federal investigation of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Here's a closer look at these and other events:

o On Monday, Las Vegas hosted the American Gaming Summit, and gaming leaders there spun a positive outlook for the city's recovery following the impact of the Sept. 11 attacks. Glenn Schaeffer, president and chief financial officer of Mandalay Resort Group, said his company would take about a year to recover from the effects, but has put the construction of the convention center at Mandalay Bay back on course. Resuming construction on what will be nation's fourth-largest convention complex is one indication that the state's major industry has confidence in the nation's economic recovery.

o A conference on Internet gambling was held at the University of Nevada Las Vegas on Wednesday. The gathering featured companies displaying technology regarding online wagering security. Last year, Nevada legislators passed a law that requires state gaming regulators to create guidelines for the possible participation by Nevada gaming companies in the Internet gaming arena. Gaming regulators still must be convinced that the technology can identify who a player is, how old he is, and where he is playing from before they issue parameters for Internet gaming.

MGM Mirage is aggressively pursuing Internet gaming and has earmarked $20 million as it forges ahead with its website project.

o While Nevada regulators wrestle with Internet security issues, the nation's lawmakers are working on a pair of bills that would outlaw Internet wagering. Two bills are making their way through Congress to shore up the antiquated Federal Wire Act. The American Gaming Association is expected to support a bill crafted by Congressman Jim Leach (R-Iowa), rather than a bill proposed by Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). Frank Fahrenkopf, who is president of the gaming industry lobby group, cited the Goodlatte bill as unfairly favoring the horse racing industry.

o Fahrenkopf also sided with Representative Berkley and the remarks she made while testifying before the a subcommittee of House Committee on Energy and Commerce on Wednesday. Berkley, in response to an NCAA-backed bill to outlaw betting on college games in Nevada, charged the NCAA of abuse of power. "A full congressional study would uncover an organization dedicated to the proposition of taking care and protecting itself and doing little as possible to take care and protect student athletes," she said.