Las Vegas Special Election Edition -- The Gaming Tax Game


Special to the Las Vegas Sentinel Voice, 8-31-00

Whenever Joe Neal's opponent says his campaign is about anything other than the gaming tax, you can be sure of one thing: his campaign is all about the gaming tax.

Sen. Neal wants to raise it. The gambling industry prefers to continue sticking the average citizen with the costs of growth. Hence the casino campaign to unseat Sen. Neal.

Actually, knocking Sen. Neal out of office is only a secondary aim. The primary goal is extending the election into November -- keep Joe Neal defending himself against vicious attacks rather than working on his initiative petition to raise the world's lowest gross gaming tax.

VOICE IN THE WILDERNESS -- A homemade sign fronts U.S. 395 S. in Pleasant Valley, about halfway down the 30-mile stretch between Reno and Carson City. Any clues as to the identity of the sign maker will be appreciated.

Should any candidate exceed 50% next Tuesday, the election is over with no November runoff. Sen. Neal would be free to spend the next ten weeks gathering gaming tax initiative signatures.

With all the billions the gambling industry can place at lawyer Uri Lahajj Clinton's disposal, why isn't he on TV every 10 minutes?

Because his campaign is not about Senate District 4, it's about the gaming tax. The gambling industry wants neither man to win outright on Sept. 5. Mr. Clinton has thus not been allowed a TV budget, at least not yet.

In May, about a week before the candidate filing period closed, the 27 year-old lawyer for non-union construction companies invited Sen. Neal to breakfast. Mr. Clinton announced that he would not be a candidate. On the last day to file, he left a message on Sen. Neal's answering machine reversing his word.

What changed in a few days? Perhaps the answer came in a June 5 article by veteran reporter Ken Ward in the Las Vegas Business Press: "Clinton, a 27-year-old black attorney who represents subcontractors in construction defect cases...is believed to have at least the tacit encouragement of top casino interests for the Senate run.

"According to one widely circulated report, unnamed casino interests promised Clinton he 'would never have to work again' if he topples Neal. Clinton doesn't deny the story."

Ambition can turn family against family. More than 20 years ago, Mr. Clinton's mother came to Sen. Neal asking his help to secure her California unemployment insurance benefits which had not been forthcoming. Sen. Neal took her case and obtained the money she needed to help support her family, including a little boy named Uri. Such is the character of Joe Neal.

Mr. Clinton points out the needs of North Las Vegas and West Las Vegas. However, he suggests no funding and offers no program other than removing Sen. Neal. Solutions cost money and the Nevada well will soon run dry. Growth-weary cities and counties all over the state are proposing tax increases.

When growth stopped paying for itself several years ago, only Sen. Neal was willing to say that gaming is both the problem and the solution.

A recent study by the Guinn-Hunt administration's Nevada Commission on Economic Development backs him up. It points the finger at the creation of low-wage casino jobs as the reason Nevada cannot fund the needs of its people. In an ongoing orgy of corporate welfare, the social problems caused by poorly paid casino employment are increasingly foisted onto the backs of taxpayers.

On the Aug. 28 Las Vegas One "POV Vegas" television program, Mr. Clinton called Sen. Neal's gaming tax petition a "scheme totally different from a legitimate gaming tax." A strange use of untrue words.

Either lawyer Clinton doesn't know the issue or has been instructed to read a keyword script generated by pollsters and consultants. In fact, Sen. Neal's proposal would continue to tax gaming on gross revenue, the way it has long been done in Nevada and just about every jurisdiction worldwide.

I find it particularly repugnant that Mr. Clinton and his handlers employ the Nixonesque tactic of attributing to Sen. Neal positions which he has never taken. Mr. Clinton would even have voters believe that Sen. Neal would intentionally endanger public safety.

Uri Lahajj Clinton was eight years old in 1981 when Sen. Neal singlehandedly took on the ever-stingy gaming industry to give Nevada the strongest high-rise fire safety law in the world. Despite more than 80 deaths at the MGM Grand, casino interests had ordered the legislature to take no action.

Joe Neal fought the industry and won. High-rise fires are now quickly extinguished by sprinkler systems mandated under Sen. Neal's law. Untold hundreds of lives have been saved. If that's a scheme, it's a worthy one.

The alternative to a gaming tax increase is a sales tax on services covering everything from haircuts to dry cleaning to auto repair. That's a scheme Sen. Neal opposes.

The casino bosses backing Clinton have been placing people in fear all over the state. They have warned workers of retaliation for anyone caught signing Neal's petition.

The voting booth is different. Your vote is secret. No one can find out how you vote.

Before you cast your ballot, remember one thing: it's about the gaming tax.

I urge you to vote for my old friend, Sen. Joseph M. Neal, Jr.

Be well. Raise hell.

Hot Off the Press:


Las Vegas Sun again busts Uri Clinton campaign manager for using copyrighted material to produce lie-filled smear flyers.

Trickle-down true believers endorse Neal opponent -- In a typical morally obtuse editorial citing the need for "the state to maintain a healthy, low-tax climate," the Las Vegas Review-Journal at the last minute endorsed Sen. Neal's casino-funded opponent. The RJ editors have been apprised many times but have never printed a word about the state study, noted above, which shows gambling as the source of our problems. We are not a low-tax state. We are among the highest. We just burden the average citizen with a lot of hidden taxes, such as on retail sales, gasoline and insurance. You will find a wealth of information on this point by using the search engines on both this and Sen. Neal's website.

Pundit Jon Ralston predicts Neal 49%, Clinton 46% -- in the Sunday Las Vegas Sun.

Las Vegas Sun Editorial excoriates Clinton's hatchet-job advertising -- Clinton mailer misleading.

Neal opponent apologizes to Las Vegas Sun over abuse of copyrighted material -- Chagrined casino candidate takes out ad in embarrassment. Newspaper threatens legal action.

Casino-funded opponent raises more money than Neal -- No nuclear industry contributions in Neal campaign

NevadaLabor.com | U-News | C.O.P. | Sen. Joe Neal
Guinn Watch | Deciding Factors


© Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 31-year Nevadan and former Las Vegan who now lives Reno. He has worked as a Culinary Union member and organizer and is now a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of U-News, where the past four years of columns may be accessed. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Sparks Tribune since 1988.

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