BARBWIRE by Barbano


Casino heavyweights Bible, Sloan and Feldman refuse to face veteran North Las Vegas lawmaker

(LAS VEGAS) Friday, Feb. 11 2000 — After breaking her campaign manager's promise to debate Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, in the 1998 Nevada gubernatorial campaign, former Las Vegas Mayor Jan Laverty Jones finally faced off with him today.

The once and future political opponents taped a segment of Las Vegas One's "POV Vegas" this afternoon. The program was hosted by veteran Las Vegas Sun investigative reporter Jeff German.

Las Vegas One cablecast the confrontation at 4:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. (PST) today (Feb. 11, Y2K) on either Cox Cable channel 1 or 39, depending on the southern Nevada viewer's cable configuration. The gambling industry originally committed to send either Nevada Resort Association President Bill Bible, Mandalay Bay (Circus Circus) Vice-President Mike Sloan, or Mirage Resorts executive Alan Feldman. None would appear against Sen. Neal despite several weeks of requests.

This past Monday, they notified Las Vegas One that Ms. Jones would substitute. The maneuver is a textbook public relations power play employed by major corporate entities such as the Tobacco Institute. It involves using a female spokesperson to present a soft, motherly face when an exploitive industry comes under fire.

Neal is leading a statewide initiative petition campaign to raise the gross gaming tax on the state's largest, most profitable casinos. After dropping plans in 1997 for her second gubernatorial bid, Jones filed against Neal on the last day possible in May of 1998 after intense pressure from Las Vegas Strip casino interests. Jones' husband, Richard Scheutz, is a longtime gambling industry executive.

Jones defeated Neal by a wide margin in the September, 1998, primary, then adopted a Bill Clinton-like strategy of adopting GOP nominee Kenny Guinn's issues as her own. The election became a bland exercise about who cared the most about education and senior citizens. Neal's call for a gaming tax increase was never discussed again.

As Harry Truman once said, if you give voters a choice between two conservatives, they'll always vote for the real thing. Guinn soundly defeated Jones, who did not seek re-election last year to a third term as Las Vegas mayor.

She is now vice-president of communications for Harrah's, one of the most profitable hotel-casino operators in the country with corporate headquarters in Las Vegas. Last month, Jones acted as spokesperson for the company's announcement of a major tribal casino joint venture with San Diego's Rincon band. Harrah's will build and manage a $100 million casino and hotel for the tribe.

The Pala band previously announced a $90 million deal with Anchor Gaming of Las Vegas, and the United Auburn Indian Community of Northern California has signed a $100 million agreement with Station Casinos, also of Las Vegas.

The gambling industry has been using the potential expansion of tribal casinos in California as a reason to defeat Neal's initiative. However, Neal's taxation plan is at least three years away from implementation, while Nevada casinos are currently exporting Nevada jobs to California through tribal joint ventures. Recent media reports have been mixed as to whether tribal casino expansion will have any significant effect on Nevada. (See "Frequently Asked Questions" at Sen. Neal's website.)

Read More About It:

The Las Vegas Sun story .

The Empire Blinks: Sen. Titus defends Sen. Neal, says gamers and governor may move toward compromise

In an astounding turn of events, Nevada State Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, who has been at odds with Sen. Neal throughout her career, spoke up for his petition campaign and announced that the gambling industry and the governor may call a compromise summit. She added that the industry may deal on a 2% gross gaming tax increase, identical with Neal's SB 88 which the gamblers killed last year.


* Jan Jones came out swinging, quoting Bill Bible's weeping and gnashing of teeth about an 80% tax increase on Nevada's largest clubs. Sen. Neal countered by noting that elsewhere, Harrah's pays taxes of up to 460% higher than Nevada's lowest-in-the-world top rate of 6-1/4%. The highest rate in the U.S. is 35%. Some European countries tax well over 85%. Harrah's in Atlantic City, a market with a 9.5% tax rate and plenty of competition, posted the highest earnings in the chain in an announcement made earlier this week. (See The Press of Atlantic City. )

* Sen. Neal noted that he served on the senate taxation committee in 1987, when gaming agreed to two small increases of 1/4%, phased in over three years. Industry leaders told the committee that they would be amenable to reviewing another increase in 10 years if they maintained profitability, he stated. The industry killed Neal's 2 percent increase proposal during the 1999 legislative session.

* In almost every segment of the program, Ms. Jones predicted economic devastation and loss of jobs if Neal's tax plan passes. She failed to note that Neal's proposed increase is at least three years away. Sen. Neal asked her about all the jobs the industry is exporting to California by investing there. She called the Golden State investments very small and not amounting to much. She likened what Neal is doing to Michigan telling the auto industry that the state doesn't want it anymore. (Please note that GM is leaving Michigan for Mexico all by itself anyway. As Michael Moore showed in his heralded documentary "Roger & Me," the many tax incentives given to the auto industry had no effect on its plans.)

* Ms. Jones tried to spin the campaign as "Joe Neal vs. workers." Sen. Neal took strong exception to that remark, stating "none of this is for Joe Neal. It's for school children who need pencils and paper, police who need better pay. Don't play that game with me."

* Sen. Neal twice asked Ms. Jones if she would sign his petition. Her answers were "no" and "absolutely not!"

She closed by accusing Sen. Neal of spreading disinformation about her industry as part of this campaign. She echoed gaming lawyer Mike Sloan's comments before the Nevada Legislature in March of 1999, attacking businesses which "pay no taxes whatsoever."

She singled out banking and firms brought into Nevada to diversify the economy, while asserting that gaming jobs pay well, averaging $26,000 per year (her number).

Former U.S. Sen. Paul Laxalt, R-Nev., recently gave his own perspective on southern Nevada growth and jobs. ("Laxalt likewise is not impressed with reports of a thriving job market in Southern Nevada. 'The unpleasant fact is that most of those are near-minimum wage jobs,' he said." -- Las Vegas Review-Journal. )

* The false assertion that some companies pay "no taxes" prompted the Guinn-Hunt administration to publish a study showing how gaming jobs expand government by placing inordinate demand on services as opposed to other types of employment.

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