I. Nelson Rose

Beginning in 1979 with the publication of “The Legalization and Control of Casino Gambling’ – a scholarly paper put forth in the Fordham University Urban Law Journal – I. Nelson Rose has stood at the forefront of American gaming and gambling law.

Born in 1950, Rose earned his B.A from UCLA in 1973 before attending Harvard Law School. It was there that he formulated his now famous theory of the Third Wave of Legal Gambling. First presented in a paper contributed to the 1979 Fordham Law Review, Rose’s theory incorporated his detailed analysis of dates in which gambling had been previously legalized in America, either on the state or federal level. By examining the underlying patterns behind these dates, which marked previous eras of legalized gambling throughout the United States, Rose arrived at two postulations:

  • Two “waves” of legalized gambling had already occurred
  • A third wave of legalized gambling was looming on the horizon

In his paper, Rose predicted that privately-owned casinos, state-operated lotteries, and community-organized bingo and other games of chance would all become legal on a widespread basis. Perhaps basing his ideas on current trends, as Atlantic city had legalized casino gambling in 1977, Rose envisioned a near-future in which states would readily adopt legal forms of gambling – much like they had during two previous eras of American history. According to Rose, the concept of widespread gambling bans necessarily increases and inflates demand, a phenomenon he likened to alcohol prohibition:

“Suppose Prohibition of alcohol had just been repealed. The hypothetical owner of the first and only liquor store in a state would make a fantastic return on investment.”

Sure enough, Rose’s theory of the Third Wave of Casino Gambling proved to be prescient. In a landmark 1976 decision rendered in the case of Bryan v. Itasca County, the Supreme Court had previously ruled that states had no legal right to tax or regulate the conduct of Native Americans living on reservation lands, which paved the way for Rose’s theory to become reality. At around the same time Rose’s paper was published, the Seminole Tribe of Florida opened a bingo hall on their lands in Florida, becoming the first Native American tribe to experiment with legalized casino-based gaming.

In 1980 the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians opened their own poker and bingo halls on reservation lands near Indio, California. As had happened to the Seminole Tribe, local police attempted to shut down the Cabazon Band’s fledgling gaming operations, but both tribes sued in federal court and attained victories that allowed the conduct to continue.

By the time President Ronald Reagan signed the Congressionally-authorized Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) into law in 1988, effectively granting Native American tribes the right to operate casinos on tribal lands provided they enter into a compact with state governments, Rose’s theory had been proven to be accurate. Soon enough Indian casinos were flourishing across the country in multiple states, a fact which accelerated the next segment of Rose’s Third Wave of Legal Gambling.

Mississippi became the third state to legalize commercial casino gambling in 1991, joining Nevada and New Jersey, and eventually, states like Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, and several others joined the veritable gold rush. In fact, the Mississippi Supreme Court cited Rose’s theory when rendering their decision. Further proving that Rose’s theory of the Third Wave of Legal Gambling has fully come to fruition, only Hawaii and Utah stand as gambling free zones within America today, as the other 48 states in the union all allow for one type of legalized gambling or another – including state lotteries, charitable bingo games, racetracks, tribal gaming, or pari-mutuel wagering.

In addition to his seminal theory, Rose has also influenced the development of legal American gambling in a number of ways. Owing to his status as one of the nation’s preeminent gaming law scholars, Rose has been called to testify in many of the most meaningful court cases concerning the industry. His testimony helped paved the way for Texas Hold’em and Pai Gow Poker to be introduced throughout California casinos. Several cases concerning the definition of slot machines versus games of skill have also cited Rose as a deciding factor, including a California Supreme Court ruling that banned state lottery branded Keno games in 1996.

Serving in the role of consultant, Rose has worked with dozens of state, provincial, and tribal governments throughout the U.S. and Canada, assisting in drafting legislative language for various gaming laws. Regulatory agencies such as the Illinois Gaming Board and the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement have regularly sought Rose’s expert opinion on gaming law matters over the years.

In 1983 Rose created and taught the first law school course on gaming law, and today more than 30 such courses are offered by accredited law schools nationwide. Ten years later Rose became the first Visiting Scholar for the University of Nevada-Reno’s Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming, teaching gaming law classes to undergraduates as well as graduate students.

Rose has also contributed to the world of casino gaming through his role as a prolific author. Beginning with his nationally syndicated column “Gambling and the Law,” which first ran in 1983 and now appears in more than 100 publications on a regular basis, Rose has consistently written about the industry. In 1986 Rose published a book by the same name, and since that time he has authored more than 300 books, papers, columns, and articles on the subject. Among the more notable titles to his credit include the first and second editions of “Internet Gaming Law,” “Blackjack and the Law,” and “Compulsive Gambling and the Law.”

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