Astroturf, Lord Vader's sling and Sam Shad's shoes

Expanded from the 3-2-2003 Daily Sparks, Nev., Tribune

"The number one Nevada export is capital to build non-Nevada casinos."

With that quote from a state official, I began my testimony last Tuesday before the Nevada State Senate Committee on Taxation. I spoke on behalf of several hundred taxpayers concerned that they're going to get goosed with new levies while the gambling industry gets another comp. Research Exclusive
State of Nevada study blames chronic fiscal problems on wholesale creation of low-wage casino jobs.

NEW UNLV study shows gambling costs more than it pays in taxes.

Reno Gazette-Journal Editorial — How about a three percent gaming tax hike?

More corporate welfare horror stories: White Paper on Nevada's unfair and regressive tax structure. 1-20-2003 Web Extra

The Silence of the Sacred Cows
Sparks Tribune 1-19-2003

Gambling industry offers only token taxes and cosmetic participation
1-20-2003 Web Extra

State of the State: Next to Nothing
Las Vegas CityLife 1-30-2003

Humongous property tax hike glossed over by Gov. Dudley Do-Right
Sparks Tribune 1-26-2003

The need for zero-based taxing
Sparks Tribune 12-13-98

Logrolling, air raids and dirty deeds done dirt cheap
Sparks Tribune 2-2-2003

Gov. Dudley Do-Right asked for it
Internet Extra 2-3-2003
Las Vegas Review-Journal 2-7-2003

JOIN Silver State Casinos Out of Politics (COP)

The hearing involved Senate Bill 21 sponsored by Sen. Joe Neal,
D-North Las Vegas. It would raise the lowest gross gaming tax in the world by four percentage points.

To make a long story short, we smoked 'em. The gamblers were caught flat-footed, assuming that Neal would focus on the impact of tourists. They should have read this column. I can't count the number of times I've reported studies showing that the state's fiscal problems are rooted in the wholesale creation of low-wage casino jobs. Combining the costs to society of low wage employment with the impacts of gambling addiction, we made a convincing case that gambling now costs Nevada more than it pays in taxes.

More interesting was who didn't testify. Other than the gamblers and their shills, many of the opponents of bygone years were no-shows. The new buzz among lawmakers and lobbyists is that the gambling tax will be raised between one and two percentage points. Each point generates about $100 million to the state treasury. The industry wants to pay a federally-deductible $20 million or so, not starting until 2005.

ASTROTURF ALERT. This came in Saturday: "Andy: A week ago, the Reno Hilton had a 'Make them pay their fair share' petition at the employees cafeteria. Their guy wasn't interested in the fact that the biggest casinos were not paying their fair share. They were talking about places like Wal-Mart and others not paying any taxes. I really did not know what he was talking about."

This was early warning about a new phony grassroots or "Astroturf" campaign the gamblers and their cronies are starting. Watch for TV spots from a group called "Nevadans for Tax Fairness."

I guarantee they will try to continue what the gambling lobbyists tried last week: say that Sen. Neal is trying to raise taxes on gambling to the exclusion of everyone else. Not so. His standpoint is the emerging majority view: before anybody's taxes get raised, gambling, the cause of our problems, has to take a major hit. The public agrees and it's showing up in lawmakers' mail.

Two of three Nevadans have supported a gaming tax hike for years. A poll released last week by the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce shows nine in 10 Gomorrah South voters want gaming taxes raised.

Read much more inside baseball in the web edition of this column, including a link to a story about how Las Vegas teachers are having their students make valentines to Gov. Dudley Do-Right in support of his casino-friendly tax package.

VISITATIONS FROM LORD VADER HISSELF. I concluded my legislative testimony with a personal aside and get-well greeting to Harvey Whittemore, the shy Sparks kid who grew up to become hatchet man and uber-lobbyist for the gambling-industrial complex:

"Harvey Whittemore arose from his sickbed to be with us today. I understand he's recovering from shoulder surgery, which explains why his right arm is in a sling. This is a red-letter day. For the first time in Nevada history, we have evidence on the record that Harvey can feel pain."

Harvey will be the headliner on this week's "Nevada Newsmakers" on KRNV TV-4. The show airs at 12:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday after the noon news. Each program reruns on the same date at 9:30 p.m. on Charter Cable Channel 12 in Sparks-Reno-Carson and on Channel 19 in Douglas County.

Other guests this week include U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., via satellite (Monday), new Nevada Atty. Gen. Brian Sandoval, R, and Assemblyman Bernie Anderson, D-Sparks, on Tuesday, and Harvey and me on Wednesday. I'll also pontificate tomorrow and Tuesday. The complete rogue's gallery is posted at

IS THIS HOW RELIGIONS GET STARTED? This just in: "Andy, my wife and I are enjoying your quips on Channel 4. As you know we are Republicans, so we do not agree with all of your funnies. When are you going to comment on Sam 'White Shoes' Shad's footgear?"

There are some places even pundits fear to tread, I responded.

"You just have no idea about Sam and his shoes. A century or two from now, there may be a religion based on it. There's already a small but dedicated cult." The words of Shad the prophet are spreading.

"Geez. The station got more e-mails yesterday about Sam's shoes," reported his TV sidekick Ande Engleman. "I'm so glad the public is concentrating on the important things in life."

She added that I could tell people "it's an issues show, not a fashion show."

Au contraire!

Remember Billy Crystal's immortal words as Fernando: "It's more important to look good than to feel good."

This issue stands to eclipse taxes as the most controversial of the legislative session, so it's time to put democracy into action. Symbolism is everything in politics. Shad may not be Imelda Marcos, but the illogical footwear has apparently piqued the public bunion.

Let the public decide. Send me your votes on whether Shad should shun the sneakers. Should he get respectable with leather laceups? Tassled loafers like lobbyists wear? Brogues to stomp on the ratings of the opposition? What about suede shoes for calling on automotive advertisers? After all this, we should at least be able to get him a Nike or Reebok sponsorship. (I'll take my commission in cash, Sam. I already have shoes.)

Votes and quotes from readers and viewers will be posted at


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Copyright © 2003 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 34-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of and He hosts Deciding Factors on several Nevada television stations. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.)Tribune since 1988.

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