Three of a kind against the house
Expanded from the 7-9-2006 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune
Updated 7-11-2006 and 11-16-2010
Déjà vu all over again
Ledge '11: Cruel and Unusual Punishment / Barbwire 11-14-2010
HAT TRICK: Barbwire wins third straight Nevada Press Association first-place award

Government on the federal level is almost irreparably broken. Only a looming economic collapse can break the stranglehold of corporate interests. I hope that a Great Depression Part Deux does not come to pass, but it looks increasingly likely, especially with the twisted, Hooveresque government now in place which worships at the altar of the mythical free market while ignoring the fact that the free market, like the middle class, is quickly disappearing.

There is no longer a free market of ideas. The right wing noise machine started and corporate concentration has finished the job of pansyfying the major media. American consumers know that they are being forced to pay high prices in a rigged gasoline market, but BigOil buys better lawyers than governments, so elected officials do nothing more than tell motorists to go to church and pray to Al'lah for relief. (The dynamics of the retail gas price-fixing game have been published in detail in this column for a decade. See the ever-expanding Barbwire Oilogopoly Archive.)

Nevada followed South Dakota's lead in becoming the home of Shylockian credit card companies and now a new predator stands on almost every street corner: the hot check payday loan store. The Mafia would be proud to see how another of the industries they pioneered has gone legit.

Speaking of mainstreamed vice, Sparks last week found itself at the center of the latest attack by the casino vampires, and I mean that in a nice way.

Uberlobbyist Harvey Whittemore wants to put a clip joint up north of town. His minions, who include several former city officials, have put out the word that Lord Vader may sue if he is not once again allowed to impose his will on the neighborhood.

Moneyed interests have done very well lately by intimidating local governments with scorched earth legal strategies. Spineless county commissioners Bob Larkin, Jim Galloway and David Humke all reversed their support of acquiring the pristine Ballardini Ranch and ended up giving Minnesota developers more than their wildest dreams of greed, plus $13.5 million for hurting their feelings.

While Ballardini area residents have to fear a Wal-Mart as gray, cruel icing on a 3,000-home cake, the good residents of Spanish Springs are looking at all the social ills spawned by gambling halls.

Ironically, both Wal-Mart and casinos do the same thing to the average taxpayer – privatize profit while socializing risk.

In the Barbwire of Sept. 19, 1999, I reported that during that year's legislative session, "the gaming lobby attempted to prove (that) diversification of the economy strains the resources of the state rather than strengthens them. An additional implication was that the manufacturing industry does not generate sufficient tax revenue to support further recruitment and retention of business," according to a Nevada Commission on Economic Development Study published to refute the gamblers' assertion.

The work was ordered by Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt, R, who took umbrage at the slight against the entity she runs. Current NCED Executive Director Timothy Rubald authored the study.

The evidence not only proved the gambling shills wrong, but also that liberal former Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, and fiscal conservatives were both right.

The commission study looked at the results of creating 8,000 new gambling industry jobs versus 8,000 new manufacturing jobs. They were careful to eliminate any short-term jump in construction employment.

The results were little short of astounding, especially in the area of growth spawning more growth. "After the fourth year, the hotel industry continues to generate population growth long after the manufacturing segment influence on population slows," the study found.

"The significance of continued population growth caused by increased hotel industry jobs should not be understated. The higher growth rate of population due to the hotel industry is significant because of the increased burden in government services which population growth brings," the study concluded.

The state commission found that manufacturing jobs pay a lot better than casino jobs. No news there. But for the first time, it placed evidence on the record that casino jobs breed bigger government. Comparing the long-term impact of 8,000 jobs, "the hotel segment starts with an initial decline of about 28 employees and then increases during the next 20 years to over 120 more government employees than manufacturing would have caused."

That means about $4.3 million per year in salaries, not including benefits, at 1998 wage rates.

Hard evidence now exists that gambling jobs place an inordinate demand on government services, in effect forcing government to supply benefits the industry is too stingy to provide. During winter downsizing a few years ago, managers at the Reno Hilton were advised to encourage workers to reduce their hours and apply for partial welfare to make up the difference.

I brought that study to the attention of the 2001 legislature and it was ignored. Sen. Neal and I resubmitted it in 2003 when the financial wheels were coming off state government. A string of lawmakers asked me why I had not brought it before them earlier. Go figger.

So the progressive Sen. Neal, in the opinion of the Gov. Dudley Do-Right's own Republican administration, was proven correct that gambling does not pay its fair share for the growth it causes. And the right wingers are also right that government has grown larger than it should.

The casino industry acquiesced to a miniscule hike in the gross gaming tax three years ago, but with the exception three or four California tribal operations, Silver State clubs continue to pay the lowest gross gaming taxes in the world.

Now comes Harvey to place his latest predation in an otherwise nice neighborhood, and he'll probably get his way. That's the way things have always worked here on the Sagebrush Plantation.

THE BIG THREE. Nevada voters start this election season at a uniquely low ebb. Here in Washoe County, each local government offers just one responsive official who can be consistently counted upon to advocate for the little guy.

The dean of the key three is Sparks Councilman John Mayer, who voted against the selloff of the Mello sports complex because many of the kids now using it would have serious trouble getting transportation to its far-out replacement.

On the Washoe County Commission, former Reno Mayor Pete Sferrazza holds the populist chair. He cast the only dissenting vote on the Ballardini Ranch debacle. His daughter, Jessica, does dad proud on the Reno City Council. She is the only consistently pro-consumer councilmember.

Voters will have a chance to address some of these issues in the next several months. I suggest starting close to home.

Be well. Raise hell.


Smoking Guns

Sale of Don Mello approved
By Angela Mann
Sparks Tribune, Tuesday, 6-27-2006

By a 4-1 vote, the Sparks City Council voted Monday afternoon to approve the sale of Don Mello Sports Complex to Sparks Development Co., a subsidiary of RED Development.

The lone dissenting vote was cast by Ward 1 Councilman John Mayer. He cited his concern that many children living in Sparks will not be able to bicycle or otherwise travel to Babe Ruth or Pop Warner fields and participate in sports programs.

"Babe Ruth kids will have to go all the way to Golden Eagle (Regional Park). Everything you say is great, really, for the youth. But kids in Wards 1-2-3 don't have transportation out there," Mayer said....

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Copyright © 1999, 2006, 2010 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 37-year Nevadan, editor of and webmaster of and His opinions are strictly his own, as always. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.


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