gamblers, Joe the giant killer & magical Merlin
From the 2-7-99 Daily
never suffers a slow news day. Last week provided a plethora of examples.
JOE VS. THE VOLCANO.
State Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, introduced a set of bills which
have shaken the gambling-industrial complex to its greedy foundations.
No other lawmaker had the courage to sign on.
It was reminiscent
of 1981, when only Sen. Bill Hernstadt, D-Las Vegas, had the
guts to co-sponsor Neal's bill mandating fire sprinklers in all Nevada
high rise buildings.
deaths of more than 100 guests in two Las Vegas hotel fires, the casino
industry opposed it as too expensive. Sen. Neal prevailed. Countless
lives have since been saved and Nevada is now the world model for fire
Neal considers his
current proposals as another kind of insurance against federal
"The public pays for
the costs of addiction and other gambling-related problems. The National
Gambling Impact Study Commission will see this and propose appropriate
taxation," Neal noted last year during his gubernatorial campaign.
"A two percent increase
in the gross gaming tax on the largest Nevada casinos is the best preventive
medicine the industry can take. Otherwise, the federal government will
come calling and take our fair share to Washington," he said.
Sen. Neal's timing
proved prescient. On the very day he introduced his legislation, the
Clinton administration proposed witholding income tax from bingo
and keno jackpots.
Neal contends that
gaming actually pays little or nothing in state and local taxes, as
all such levies are fully deductible on federal corporate income tax
returns. Neal says that the industry should pay a fair share for the
growth it causes and from which it is the principal beneficiary.
Neal promises to initiate
a statewide petition if his colleagues fail to act on his proposals.
Sen. Don Mello, D-Sparks, made the same threat a dozen years
ago. Gamblers caved in to a tiny increase and have never seen another.
Nevada clubs remain the most lightly taxed in the nation.
"Nevada should run
gaming, gaming should not run Nevada," Neal says. According to a recent
UNR-UNLV poll, 69 percent of Nevadans favor a gaming tax hike.
Casinos in other areas
pay as much as 34 percent for the privilege of holding a gaming license.
Atlantic City operations pay New Jersey eight percent on gross revenues
with an additional 1.25 percent earmarked for a community reinvestment
Nevada's current three-tiered
taxing system would have four levels under Neal's proposal, Senate Bill
88. The 26-year lawmaker would protect smaller operations from any increase.
Gambling operations grossing less than $50,000 per month would continue
to pay three percent. Casinos generating between $50,000 and $134,000
per month would remain at four percent. The 12 year-old top rate of
6.25 percent would continue to apply to those grossing from $134,000
to $1 million per month. The highest volume enterprises grossing more
than $1 million monthly would be subject to the new rate of 8.25 percent
under Neal's plan.
Perhaps even more hard
hitting than his tax increase is Neal's introduction of tougher, New
Jersey-inspired campaign finance reforms. Neal would make it illegal
for gambling interests to contribute money to candidates or to lobby
governments. SB 86 is patterned after New Jersey's prohibition. Enacted
more than 20 years ago, it has withstood constitutional scrutiny. (See
"The Jersey Way" by Steve Sebelius
which recently appeared in Las Vegas City Life and the Reno News & Review.)
Other Neal bills would
close gambling industry tax loopholes which became law over his opposition
in 1997. SB90 would eliminate the sales and use tax break on high-priced
works of art passed at the behest of Las Vegas casino magnate Steve
Wynn. Last year, Neal successfully blocked Wynn's attempt to take
the tax break and still charge admission to children whose schools would
lose millions to Wynn's corporate art collections. Wynn is suing the
Nevada Tax Commission over the issue.
Neal also proposes
to close another loophole whereby casinos deduct the face value of lucky
bucks coupons and complimentary chips from their state gaming taxes,
a de facto license to print money.
Another Neal campaign
reform is designed to wean political hopefuls away from the need to
chase big dollars for advertising. With SB91, he proposes to allow office
seekers to publish 400-word statements on sample ballots. Candidates
would pay printing costs.
Neal also introduced
SB 89, a measure which would mandate that Nevada's Public Utilities
Commission use unclaimed property to help pay the utility bills of indigent
consumers. He has other legislation in the pipeline to expand the size
of the Las Vegas City Council.
For more details on
Sen. Neal's positions on gaming and taxation, go here.
The texts of his new bills may be accessed through the Nevada
HOME SWEET HOME.
The 1997 legislature passed a bill by Sen.
Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, to better regulate homeowners associations.
The new state ombudsman's office is sponsoring an all-day seminar for
HOA members this Wednesday in Reno at 6000 Bartley Ranch Road. If you're
interested in going, call (702) 486-4033. Ask for
Terry McGillivary at extension 239.
Joni Greenwalt has
written a splendid book on such organizations. "Homeowner
Associations, A Nightmare or Dream Come True?" can be purchased
by calling 888-683-9550. For more information, go to http://www.florida-homeowners.com/joni/
POWER OF THE PRESS.
Congratulations to Daily Sparks Tribune reporter Willie Albright.
The story he exclusively broke about the potential illegality of the
firing of 325 Reno Riverboat Casino workers resulted in the employees
retaining labor lawyer Michael Langton (775-329-7557) and the filing
of a lawsuit last week. See "Riverboat
Casino pours water on the drowning".
Albright's story ran
December 1. The Reno Gazette-Journal totally ignored the issue until
So far, the upcoming Sparks mayor and council elections are a testament
to disorganization. Some candidates and potential candidates have sent
me stuff, some have not. Some have gone to the Sparks
Tribune, some to other newspapers, but rarely have all the bases
been touched. The Reno paper found out about one candidate after seeing
this column. Anyone thinking of running, please let
me know. My readers include those who go out and get people elected.
All submissions, declarations and prevarications are acceptable by phone,
fax, e-mail, paper trail, sled dog or carrier pigeon. Politics does
not reward the shy. Call me.
THE MAGICIAN. The January 28 death of Merlin Shea went
largely unnoticed by local media. He was one of the greatest athletes
ever to play at Sparks High School. Shea was a standout middle-distance
trackster and all-state running back on the Railroaders' 1941 state
championship football team. He went on to play at the University of
planning an extensive piece on my old friend Merlin. Anyone with memories
to contribute should call me as soon as possible.
Be well. Raise hell.
Copyright ©1999, 2005 Andrew
Barbano, a member of CWA Local 9413, is 30-year Nevadan and editor
of NevadaLabor.com He was gubernatorial
campaign manager for State Senator
Barbwire by Barbano
has originated in the Sparks Tribune since 1988, where an earlier
version of this column appeared.