Fold democracy and let
casinos rule by memo
Expanded from the 6-6-99 Daily Sparks, Nev.,
Everybody knows the dice are loaded.
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed.
Everybody knows the war is over.
Everybody knows the good guys lost.
Everybody knows the fight was fixed.
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich.
That's how it goes. Everybody knows.
A sane person dropped into an insane asylum will
eventually begin to exhibit symptoms of insanity. Like an astronaut's
body adapts to weightlessness, our minds adjust to the conditions
Honest people, when dropped into a corrupt and
corrosive environment such as the Nevada Legislature, will soon
adapt and approach the norm.
That's the best explanation I can muster for
many otherwise good folks who sojourn to the Carson City petting
zoo every two years.
The record of the recently adjourned legislative
session makes a strong argument for letting the gambling industry
govern by memo. It would certainly prove cheaper than maintaining
the fiction of democracy.
You and I will continue to pay dearly to feed
organized gambling's appetites. Casino interests once again facilitated
new taxes on everyone else while lowering their own.
Residents of three counties (Clark, Douglas and
Washoe) now fork over higher sales taxes just because gambling
says so. (See "Stabbing the Taxpayer
on the Ides of March.")
Washoe's new room taxes are in the process of
being used to put the county into debt to subsidize casinos and
Union Pacific Railroad. Homeowners and renters - you and I -
act as co-signers. Should cash flow fall short, our property
taxes and rents will be raised to make up the difference.
Las Vegas casino billionaire Steve Wynn succeeded
in making the tax exemption for his art collection retroactive
to 1996. Senate Bill 521 will cost school children millions for
years to come. (See "Cash
Here are the names of the stalwart few who dared
oppose him: Republican Sens. Ann O'Connell of Las Vegas and Mark
Amodei, Carson-Lyon-Storey. Democrats: Las Vegas Sens. Terry
Care, Bob Coffin, Dina Titus and Valerie Wiener; Sen.
Joe Neal, North Las Vegas. Assembly members: Sharron Angle-R
and Sheila Leslie-D, both Reno; Bonnie Parnell-D, Reno-Carson;
Morse Arberry, Doug Bache, Chris Giunchigliani and Wendell Williams,
all Las Vegas Democrats; John Carpenter, R-Elko; Sandra Tiffany,
R-Henderson. Excused: Merle Berman, R-Las Vegas, and Jan Evans,
D-Sparks. Ripe tomatoes are in order for all 45 others.
Sen. Neal not only saw his proposal to repeal
the Wynn loophole assassinated outright, but his attempt to kill
the casino lucky bucks tax break was never even given a hearing.
Neal and Senate Minority Leader Titus wanted to disallow the
casino license to print money.
Fat chance. Nevada clubs will still be able to
deduct from their state taxes the face value of lucky bucks and
complimentary chips given to customers.
The mining industry turned similar tricks a decade
ago. The late Assemblyman Marvin Sedway, D-Las Vegas, tried several
times to extract a fair share of taxes from these largely foreign
corporations. They pay almost nothing above the normal cost of
doing business and take their profits from our natural resources
out of the country.
The industry makes the argument that it creates
jobs and that's plenty. But we have been getting peanuts for
irreplaceable minerals for well over 100 years. Mines leave pollution
and a damaged land which cosmetic repair and pretty TV spots
cannot make right. Despite gold prices hovering below $300 per
ounce, some Nevada mines produce gold for under $100 an ounce.
Dr. Sedway wanted justice. He lost. The industry
got the legislature to call a special election in 1989. Seeing
nothing but an unopposed advertising campaign, Nevada voters
passed a constitutional amendment granting mining the equivalent
of Hollywood accounting - a tax on the net profit if there ever
These guys learn from each other. Steve Wynn
will avoid taxes on his art gallery admissions in exactly the
same way. There will never be a net. No wonder the state has
trouble paying its bills.
Now comes the Nevada State Education Association
which recently announced a petition drive to impose a new five
percent (before federal taxes) state levy on business profits.
Details were sketchy, but Hugh Jackson, editor of the Las Vegas
Business Press, pinned them down a few days ago.
Mining, of course, would already be exempt thanks
to the 1989 law. Although Nevada's gaming tax is the lowest in
the world, the teachers agree with the industry that gambling
pays its fair share. NSEA Executive Director Ken Lange admitted
that discussions had taken place with gaming lobbyists, but each
side denied "officially" consulting with the other.
Lange actually told the Business Press that those
who genuinely support economic diversification in Nevada should
welcome the prospect of non-gaming businesses taking more responsibility
for the state's public needs. Circus Circus VP Mike Sloan, of
The teachers tried a corporate profits tax in
1990 and lost badly at the polls.
I recommend that you read Jackson's story "Profits
tax proposal exempts casinos." See also "NSEA, casinos: two of a kind"
by Ken Ward in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
DOTSHOTS: Anybody who wants to pass the
high school proficiency exam need not worry about preparation.
Just wait till they dump the trash at the state printing plant
in Carson City and pick up a fresh copy of the test for yourself.
Management controls are that lax...Reno Teamsters Union leaders
seem increasingly resigned to the likelihood of a Washoe County
Citifare bus system strike this Friday night. Management seems
intent on provoking a shutdown and turning its customers into
hitch-hikers. Perhaps they should turn negotiations over to gambling
Be well. Raise hell.
Barbano is a member of CWA Local 9413. He is a 30-year Nevadan,
editor of U-News
and head of Casinos
Out of Politics (COP). In 1998 he served as gubernatorial
campaign manager for State
Senator Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas.
Since 1988 Barbwire by Barbano has originated
in the Daily Sparks, Nev., Tribune, where an earlier version
of this column appeared on 6/6/99.
Read more about it:
Corporate Welfare in Nevada
Guinn Watch '99: All
Guinn, All the Time