The Las Vegas Citizen
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Jobs. 24 May, 1997
To: Editor Mike O'Callaghan,
Las Vegas Sun
The legislature has insulted the intelligence of the people of Nevada. As we cry for control of gambling and control of growth issues, the response is a promise to create as many jobs as possible. Which gambling lobbyist came up with this particular diversionary ploy? This is cover for not putting a moratorium on corporate local casino growth. I thought Nevada was fat right now, bulging at the seams. I don't know anyone who needs a job. I know a lot of people who are sick of the traffic. I know people who have invested in property out of state who are planning on leaving town after the real estate market crashes. Another 20,000 homes with five casinos in their midst? I have personally talked with businesses who have nothing to do with gambling who desperately need literate employees.
Perhaps the legislature is talking about the large and growing homeless population in the Las Vegas area, are we going to put them to work? And what kind of jobs are we going to offer these people? Homeless people are more often broken than broke. Often they are homeless because their families can no longer live with them. Many are psychologically disturbed, often victims of alcoholism or drug use. The fastest-growing segment of the homeless population in Las Vegas is, you guessed it, women and children, victims of domestic violence and neglect, which has been spawned and nurtured by gambling addiction. Are we going to address this issue by introducing more local corporate casinos into our neighborhoods?
Before I can applaud the Nevada State Legislature for promising to produce as many jobs as possible, I want to know what jobs, where, and serving whose purposes. Are they stimulating retail sales and manufacturing by lowering the sales and use tax? Are they encouraging small business by regulating the types of activity that can be monopolized by a casino, with it's captive audience of addicted patrons and near-by naive newcomers? Are they doing something to educate the youth in this state with the highest drop-out rate in the nation? Do we have jobs for the single mothers, since we have the highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation? Let's see, how about cocktail waitress, change girl, keno runner? No need for a high school diploma, and it's a great place to meet a step father for your child. And shift work is no problem because you are creating jobs for baby-sitters. And what a great home life. These workers will probably smoke, creating sales for cigarettes, and they have a much higher chance of getting seriously ill, creating jobs for doctors. These workers will probably gamble, and fight, creating jobs for eviction services, and their children will probably do poorly in school, creating jobs for special education teachers.
When did the dialogue about taxing the gambling industry in order to help the school district crumble into thinly-disguised casino-inspired hype about creating as many jobs as possible? I have, on more than one occasion heard real concern expressed because a gambling tax might put some of the casinos out of business. Yeah, it might. If we got rid of a few local casinos, what would we use to rob our youth of their future?
We could use some high-technology jobs, but what company would come here for that, with our polluted water and our lack of community interest in cultural activity? Companies come here for cheap labor. The labor unions in Southern Nevada aren't tied to Nevada's interests. They serve their existing members, many of whom live in Arizona, California, or as far away as Illinois. That "Second Straw" is union-built, by the way, that's why the unions were bucking for the sales tax increase. Most of these workers don't even live here, what do they care what they are doing to the valley?
We need to improve our schools and plan our growth. If the gambling industry doesn't help, then we should at least push them out of the local scene. There is no bill in sight to restrict or regulate gambling in any way, and it is a conspicuous absence. The people of Nevada aren't stupid. This upcoming sales tax increase is a subsidy of local gambling. New local casinos will employ people to siphon off the wages in our community and send the money to organized interests in the Midwest and the east coast. Jobs? Or systematic subjugation of our population? Stop gambling, Nevada, and register to vote.
Ann Reynolds, Las Vegas Citizen
The Clark County Commissioners May 9, 1997
Dear Editor O'Callaghan,
I think that the fine point that is missed by the County Commissioners is that the prosperity of the Strip is supposed to be for the benefit of the residents of Clark County. But the distribution of this revenue is increasingly irrelevant to citizens' needs. The key issue that can be addressed by a unified tax district is the school system, which will be sorely in need soon due to the tremendous increase in the number of students that attend school here. Nevada cannot subsidize this growth, caused by the casino/developer syndrome, with only 6 & 1/4 % of casino revenue to work with. Clark County needs a truly equitable distribution of gaming revenue if it is to meet the needs of its children.
The County Commission has in effect protected the Strip from civic rule, and continues to protect the spread of corporate-owned casinos into our communities. The County Commission is not alone in allowing this to happen, but at least members of the Las Vegas City Council have acknowledged the problem, and mayor Jan Jones even went so far as to vote against the Summerlin casinos. She didn't do it loudly, however. She didn't campaign against it as she should have. But the County Commission bats its eyes and pretends that nothing is wrong, when in fact, the sky is falling.
With increased awareness of the distinct danger involved in promoting corporate control of casino revenue that is specifically drawn from the residents of this valley, perhaps we have some hope of containing this drain on local income. But the County Commission, by the admission of Commissioner Gates, "doesn't have a dog in that fight." As long as corporate profits are protected, then is their job done? As they sat and congratulated themselves on TV, I was glad that they were so pleased with themselves. The urban children of this valley, many of whom would rather gamble than go to school or learn to read, may agree with them, but I can find a flaw or two in the priorities of county government.
The Commissioners complain that the legislature does not allow them to make critical decisions. But that is not the case. The Commission has ignored the hard decisions, while continually avoiding confrontation with the casino industry. This has produced the critical situation.
And it's important to remember that in fact the County Commission has repeatedly made critical decisions. They have decided not to adequately address the problems of suburban sprawl. They have decided not to adequately address the air and water problems. They have decided not to require permits before allowing developers to build. They have decided not to attempt to make gaming responsible or responsive to the communities which resent this socially devastating con game. They have decided not to make a decision that would upset these corporations that offer minimum wage jobs, build non-union housing, and bleed the community's wages for stockholder gain and capital investment along the Mississippi. They deny that there is a problem. I maintain that the problem is growing, and it will continue to grow as long as local casino development is considered beneficial. Beneficial to whom? (Those community leaders who smugly count their money, profiting from the misery of those around them.) At whose expense? (The poor children of Clark County.) Nevada gambling is supposed to be entertaining tourists and funding diverse civic options. There is no other reason to tolerate the gambling business.
The County Commission has decided to ignore the problems, passing innuendoes around the room like some sort of inside joke, rousing the specter of the legislature and the northern counties taking money from the helpless citizens of Las Vegas. (Is it possible that the casinos are taking our money? Have you ever heard the term denial in connection with addictive behavior?)
If I remember correctly, many people voted against the single gaming tax district because they didn't understand it. It is a complex issue, especially when no one bothers to explain it. But people also don't understand how they are going to fund the school district.
What an easy phrase, "Home Rule". It's a lot easier to point north than it is to regulate gambling. Controlling gambling when gambling controls local policy makers isn't any easy fight. The casino industry has the publicists, the poll takers, the media buyers, the lobbyists, and the slogan makers. They have some sweet deals with Howard Hughes Corporation. And they have some plans for your money.
Be careful, Clark County voters. And before you reject a regional planning commission, take a careful look at the quality of life in Washoe County. Do you know that Reno is one of the most literate communities in the world? When Commissioner Gates claims that such a commission creates more problems than it solves, why don't we find out who it created problems for? Perhaps it created problems for random development in a desert. If that is the case, then no wonder the Clark County Commission is concerned. Voting is discouraging when the issues are usurped by slogan-makers that somehow manage to subvert their meaning. But there is one thing you can do that will slay the dragons. Stop gambling. There's a phrase for you. Spend your money at stores without slot machines. You will be amazed at the change in the quality of your life. And you will discover that you've had home rule all along.
Ann Reynolds Las Vegas Citizen
The good guys, 3 May, 1997
Dear Editor O'Callaghan,
In case anyone is keeping score, and I hope you are, the fight to tax the gaming industry has centered on a few brave souls in the legislature. I think I mentioned David Goldwater in one instance as being interested in hearing the alternatives and different facets of the situation, and I'm sorry if I misled anyone about that. Taxing gambling is not an option for him, as far as I could tell.
Assemblyman Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas has suggested that a gambling tax be raised for the sake of enhancing our local sports stadiums, however, and that would certainly benefit the casino industry, indirectly if not directly. However, evidently even the suggestion of such a measure is not to be discussed without the advent of the gambling lobbyists. Morse Arberry. Remember that name, and vote for him. If we are glutted with a bunch of negative ads in his corner, then remember why.
Secretary of State Dean Heller upheld that the contributions by Howard Hughes Corporation were illegally concealed, and levied a fine, so we should remember that the next time Mr. Heller ventures into the election arena.
Assemblywoman Sandra Tiffany, R-Henderson served on the infrastructure committee, and voted against the bill, so remember her name. She tried to amend the measure, which gives the county permission to raise the tax. Her measure would have allowed the voters to vote for it. Actually, the commission can already allow the voters to vote for it, so what is required is to pass a measure which requires the voters to vote for it. (Are you listening, Senate?)
Assemblyman Harry Mortenson, D-Las Vegas, is against the water tax bill, which means that he is willing to buck his campaign without casino support. This isn't a minor matter, it's a test of whether or not the voters of Clark County are paying attention to what is going on. I don't believe that the people that live here want to be dominated by the casino industry, but the question is whether or not they are willing to do what it takes to get out from under them. It will be inconvenient. It will be confusing. The opposition will be very well-funded, glib, and intimidating, talking about jobs and services to the community.
Jobs as a dealer only take our money, and other services that casinos render to our community only represent unfair competition for small business. Or large business. When an industry is supported by addictive behavior, it's rather difficult to compete, isn't it? Bowling alleys and movie theaters have moved inside casino walls. What's the next step? Child care? And with all the new people moving to town, (new people who think that gambling is cute), who will oppose them if people who have been around awhile don't take advantage of the current debates to make yourselves heard at the ballot box. It had better be loud and clear, or the number of poor people in the valley will only grow in number, wondering how this retirement Mecca suddenly turned into hell on earth. Our limited social services will be further strained, shutting out the Northern counties entirely, as has already happened with HUD.
The casinos produce poor people. Many seniors moved here with healthy savings, and now they are living solely on Social Security, and if the casino industry has its way, they will be paying 7 1/4 percent sales tax on mouthwash so that we can build more local casinos in new developments.
The casinos are a tax. The money from this tax is going to the stockholders to "maximize dividends" and to campaign contributions. Money for these worthy causes is gathered from the paychecks of the people who frequent these local casinos. This is money that should be spent paying bills, fixing cars, feeding children, paying rent, going to non-casino movies, plays, basketball games, contributing to churches, giving to the United Way, buying clothes, and supporting local business and local creativity in general.
Nevada has to get back to regulating the casino industry. Our economy is rife with bankruptcy, eviction, and foreclosure. The current local casinos are in trouble without fresh blood. When our resources run completely out, when the water is pure chlorine, and the air is literally unbreathable, when the real estate market cannot support any more families working three jobs, owning three houses, renting to people who gamble instead of paying bills, then heaven help Nevada if we have not awakened to this biggest scam of all. When the union workers retire in Montana and Washington, and go back home to Illinois. When the Strip hotels start pouring money into resorts in the Midwest that have enough sense to protect their communities.
Assemblyman Morse Arberry
Assemblywoman Sandra Tiffany
Assemblyman Harry Mortenson
Secretary of State Dean Heller
Senator Dina Titus
Remember these names. If the tax hearing was any indication, the unions have sold out to the highest bidder, so don't count on support from them. These legislators will be betting on your ability to discern the truth in the middle of the mire. The gambling industry is after the fabric of our lives, the heritage of Nevada. Stop gambling, Las Vegas. Register to Vote.
Ann Reynolds Las Vegas Citizen Internet Magazine
The supply side angle Fri, 25 Apr 1997
Dear Editor O'Callahan,
There is no doubt that the State of Nevada has benefited from legalized gambling, but that is different than saying that we owe legalized gambling anything. Legal gambling has exacted its price every step of the way. We owe the casinos nothing, except that if they don't regulate their own behavior, then they will ruin the only dependable economic staple that Nevada has ever had. With that thought in mind, perhaps we owe them the effort it takes to bring them back in line.
I have always maintained that the gambling business is not subject to the rules that other businesses adhere to, and I think that the reason is obvious. Aggressive marketing, and increasing profits are cruel measures when the targets of this marketing is the local paychecks of a resident neighborhood. When you play less than three dollars in Megabucks, the only entity that loses is EYE-GEE-TEA. These families aren't getting value for their money. They aren't paying the rent, or feeding their children, or fixing their car with this money that they are spending at the tables and the slots. They are not enriching their spiritual lives. Besides getting drunk, they are getting nothing except an opportunity to literally waste their time. . .perhaps the loss of time is the biggest loss of all.
But there are corollary aspects of gambling that the real business community has to be aware of. Gambling not only competes with the movie theaters and the opera companies and the football games for discretionary income, but it competes with the butcher and the baker and the landlord for the not-so-discretionary income as well. And while it may be true that the tourists that come to Nevada may have a primary target of the casino tables, that doesn't mean that Nevada has a moral obligation to discourage retail sales to tourists.
Nevada will collect more sales tax during this high-visitor peak if we lower the sales tax. Tourists from states where there is an income tax (most states) suffer sticker shock when they run into 7 %. A repeat visitor that comes once or twice a year, remembers, and makes sure that he doesn't forget toothpaste, and the lady shops Neiman Marcus in Texas. Admittedly, this will leave the tourists less money with which to gamble, but we (I say we in the sense that "we" benefit from educated youth, a decent police department, a well-maintained park system, driveable roads, building inspectors...) only get 6 & 1/4 % of gambling revenue.
Another very important point is that poor people are proportionally punished by any form of flat rate like a sales tax, and poor people are a waste product of local gaming. Seven and a quarter. It's getting awfully close to the 10 percent mark, and the funds from this "raise" will go to subsidize new development in an area where we probably shouldn't be going right now. There is no justification for continuing to recycle waste water through Lake Mead until we have a dependable system for purifying the water. It took the MGM fire to institute building codes in high-rise hotels. What is it going to take before we admit that perhaps drinking sewage presents a health risk? And in the light of scientific testimony that doesn't support ignoring signs like algae, cryptosporidium, and fecal whatever, what legal defense will we have when the Lake Mead water hits the fan? And why do we need scientific evidence to tell us that there is something wrong with water that stinks?
Leave the sales tax alone, or, better yet, lower it. That will make us less dependent on gaming. Put the current expansion of the periphery on hold. That will focus development on the central areas of the city. Figure out where this wetlands park is going to be, and bid out the projects to union contractors, that will give the construction industry something to do for a few years, while we build substantial structures that can comfortably house a denser population. It will give new casino employees somewhere to live without operating a gas-belching car.
Stop approving local gaming permits. That will instantly enrich existing local casinos, retail sales, and local services, not to mention other entertainment options like basketball games and symphony orchestras. Discourage local gambling. Diversify the economy, under these circumstances, it will work. We can design computer programs, we can design activities on the Strip for tourists, we can write and produce plays, we can complement the film industry in California, we can develop a Las-Vegas based fashion industry; we can do numerous activities well if we stop worrying that we might accidentally offend a casino.
If all of these corporate casino types leave town, that's okay, Nevada. Gambling is still legal here. We can still run a tourist's casino, it doesn't take brains, it just takes gall, that's all. But while they're here, let's tax them, and buy some computers for the schools. And if they get mad and leave, let's make some new rules, and let the state take 20%. 30%. 40%. I'm not going to suggest that the state take it all, there must be a good reason not to. We could put the dealers on salary, (that would certainly give us a different type of dealer), and let the tokes go toward retirement. Make sure that the customers are treated well. Let's have the best schools in the nation. And a moderate population, with neighborhoods priced high enough so that it's a bit expensive to move here. Let's enrich our present population instead of abandoning our casino-impoverished children to the harsh reality of a ego-dominated economy. Let's have the cleanest lakes and air. And the best farms and research facilities. Stop gambling. Register to vote. The Assembly hearing on the sales tax is 9:30 am Saturday morning, Room 1214 in the Senate building in Carson, (video conference,) and Room 4401 in the Grant Sawyer Building in Vegas. So get some sleep, and I'll see everyone there.
The Wetlands Park
Sun, 20 Apr 1997
Dear Editor O'Callaghan (Las Vegas Sun),
It's only fair to let our elected officials know when they are doing something right, and I think that the current proposal for the renewal of the wetlands is one of most intelligent proposals that has been made by our current County Commission. It has all the elements of a visionary proposal. . .it utilizes a natural resource to solve a water pollution problem, and it provides a potentially great urban park for the use of our citizens. Every city in Nevada should watch closely this process, and pray for its success. Las Vegas is the future, and we have a chance to win.
The possibilities for redeveloping this area are endless and the opportunity for accommodating housing needs for new residents is unique and timely. But before we dive into this project, let's institute some building codes, and lets make some zoning decisions based on the type of wage earner that is likely to move here.
The Las Vegas Valley has tolerated under-code building for too long. I don't know how to build a house, but I do know that a proper foundation is essential. A great news story in the Las Vegas valley would be to stand around with a camera while they pour the foundations of the houses in one of these "luxury communities." Laying a cement foundation is hard work. Cement isn't an easy medium to work with, but when you water it down and lay it five inches thick, it really isn't that difficult, sort of like pouring out an earth-based Jell-O, and leaving it to set in the sun. Of course, the walls might crack. Is the insulation up to code in these houses? Makes a big difference in energy use and livability, i.e. noise tolerance. Are the ceilings finished properly, giving insulation protection to the occupants? If staples are used, are they used according to proper procedures, or are the procedures simply acknowledged, and then ignored?
I have family in the construction industry, and the rumors I hear are disturbing to say the least. I realize that rumors are a fact of life in any business, but the evidence is there as well. (Houses built quickly, cheap labor, cracked walls, low prices.) When we build our wetlands park, any opportunity for development or re-development should be done with realistic use in mind. The apartments and condominiums will be used by many different people moving in and out when they are near the Strip, whether they are bored or broke gamblers or casino workers who have moved into a position where they can afford a house. But just because the housing will often be transitional, doesn't mean that it should be shoddy. The better the housing is built, the better it will be cared for by the tenants, and the longer it will last. And if it is built well, then it will be a unique urban choice for permanent residents as well.
Developer money should be focused away from the periphery and toward downtown. The price of delivering utilities to center-city property will be cheaper than delivering utilities to periphery property. Realtors can sell urban condos to a low-income family if quality construction is used, and if the setting is designed for the income level that is coming here. Realtors can profit from a higher-priced existing home, and if the price of housing goes up, then the present home-owners would benefit as well. If the environmental quality, school quality, and small business opportunity is improved, then a higher-income family will buy the existing single-family home at a much higher price than is currently being charged.
Encouraging pedestrian living and discouraging local gambling won't jeopardize the existing industry. On the contrary, it will enrich the people that move here, making it easier for them to buy a new car when they can afford one, because they won't have to spend extra money gambling or fixing up a clunker. The casinos could cultivate the up-scale tourist market with confidence.
The casinos could participate in this project in a very meaningful way. They could encourage housing for their employees in an environment that doesn't gobble up their tips in gambling opportunities. They could encourage pedestrian vistas where the casino environment touches the wetlands. Secure parking garages near the Strip and a good bus system would discourage traffic on the Strip, making it possible for busses to run, and making the crowds more comfortable and mobile. This would provide better access to the Strip for locals who want to ride the Stratosphere or the Sky Screamer, or walk down the Forum and listen to talking statues, or watch erupting volcanoes.
They could accommodate taxi and bus service without monopolizing the transportation of their customers from high-rise environments to the casinos. They could settle in and create the absolute best service at the gambling tables, and let some of the little guys in the city make a living.
It's time for the state to define the role of gambling in our environment. The gambling houses should be providing the absolute best gambling environment possible. Their service should be impeccable, the attitude of their employees should be positive and respectful, entertaining customers instead of hustling tips from them. The casinos should be taken to task for abuses of their employees. It is the dealers and change personnel who bear the brunt of our industry, and they are currently being squeezed to the limit, even by the casinos who are paying the highest dividends to their stockholders. Casinos should attend to their business of entertaining our tourists instead of abusing their employees, competing with local small business, and vying for the discretionary income of the locals. There are plenty of locals who will gamble without constant local casinos under their noses. And there are plenty of local businesses who would rather the locals spent their money on fixing their cars, paying their rent, and attending college games and plays and cultural events. Addictive gambling is rather difficult to compete with.
We are being given an opportunity to create a city, a place that will nurture and regenerate human civilization. Nevada can do better than dust, cars, freeways, and casinos. We can build a wetlands park, making fewer lawns necessary for a pleasing environment in a compacted, people-oriented pedestrian setting. We can encourage business activity by discouraging local gambling. We can revise our employment laws so that dealers and change people aren't fodder for corporate bottom-lines. We can serve our country by contributing a model for job creation and cooperation between big and small business.
Now, where was I? Let's tax the casinos, and use the money to buy those computers for the schools. What responsible, disciplined, contributing family could resist moving here? What gambling tourist would want to visit anywhere else?
Sincerely, Ann Reynolds
The hemorrhage of tax revenues by Ann Reynolds
April 12, 1997 - TO: Editor Mike O'Callaghan
Las Vegas Sun
800 S. Valley View Blvd.
LV, NV 89107
Dear Editor O'Callaghan,
Distrust of Northern Nevada is constantly encouraged by Southern corporate interests. Are the people of Northern Nevada aware of the poison that is printed about them constantly by supposedly responsible journalists in Las Vegas?
As an example of this trend, I'll quote a few phrases from a Las Vegas Review Journal editorial in the Sunday (April 6, 1997) paper. The heading reads, "Government coffers overflowing--let's raise taxes." insinuating that the State of Nevada should be paying for growth in Las Vegas. I am comfortable maintaining that Las Vegas corporate casinos and developers are the ones getting fat in the present situation. Nevada has had a good couple of years where revenue is concerned, but I'm not aware of any figures that would justify the claim that Las Vegas has been treated unfairly. Business has been good in many areas of the state, and life in Northern Nevada is not the lap of luxury that Southern writers would have Las Vegas citizens believe.
Life in Northern Nevada requires a much tighter belt, partly because the climate doesn't adapt itself to year-round tourism, and partly because many Nevadans aren't inclined to be dominated by casinos and developers, and in the north, they aren't as outnumbered by gamblers. (Reno is in crisis right now, but at least they are complaining.)
The people of Washoe County would love to have as many libraries as Las Vegas has. (Reno almost lost its library during the Fair Share legislation, when Washoe County had to pay back 17 million dollars immediately from an already-strained budget.)
The RJ editorial contends that the money has been "sucked up" and spent elsewhere, siphoned off from a "huge central slop trough, where they become available for the creation of new departments and bureaus; for direct tax-funded loans, grants or other payoffs to the politically favored; for the erection of imposing government towers, art works and pyramids without the inconvenience of seeking voter approval; for new raise and benefits packages all 'round, and always new government jobs." I'd like to see the specifics on that one. I'll bet that the vast majority of this money is spent in Clark County. If there is someone reading this that has some statistics on this issue, please mail the particulars to:
Ann Reynolds, PO Box 16022 LV NV 89101-0022, or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) by "clicking"on my mailbox
After carefully reading the editorial, I'm not sure whether or not its anonymous author is for or against the sales tax increase. I'm convinced that the point of the piece is to blame Northern Nevada for Las Vegas growth problems. The State evidently has spent Las Vegas tax money somewhere else. The editorial is careful not to say where. It doesn't get specific, but it does venture to say, ". . .the hemorrhage of tax revenues flowing northward from Clark County should be halted--and redirected to local infrastructure needs--before officials speak of tax hikes."
Excuse me, but it was the Southern developer sector that requested this sales tax. Am I mistaken in thinking that the Nevada legislature has refused to approve the tax hike specifically because the Las Vegas voters haven't had the chance to approve it? Didn't Senator Titus and Assemblyman Goldwater ask for some sort of planning on the part of the Clark County Commission so that they could in good conscience trust that body to levy and distribute a county tax? Didn't Senate Speaker Raggio and Assembly Speaker Dini make a trip down here last December, urging Clark County to get its act together for school funding, only to discover that Clark county doesn't even have a viable system for counting students, much less distributing its funds properly? Compared to Northern budgets, this county is swimming in money. And lacking in direction and discipline.
I'm not contending that there are no regional differences between Northern and Southern Nevada, but I am unaware that Northern Nevada is causing the problems concerning Clark County's infrastructure needs. No fiscally responsible body would trust Clark County to plan for anything except its own funeral. If the people that are living down here don't accept responsibility for the situation, then the funeral is going to be a dowdy affair indeed. Let's save some state money for paying the huge bills when the people that are getting rich are gone.
It won't be long before the South becomes a huge drain on state resources if the South doesn't accept responsibility for the growth. Nevada is not an enabler. Nevada has historically been populated by survivors, not gamblers. Nevada has seen a lot of boomtowns.
The people of Nevada, North and South, would really like some reasonable employment laws that don't favor corporate gaming, and that don't categorically ignore harassment and exploitation of employees. The people of Nevada would like to be able to walk into a grocery store without having to put up with cigarette smoke coming from the ever-present slot machines. (Smoking is illegal in grocery stores because of a proven health hazard, which doesn't matter if you're gambling. Please.) Nevada is fighting for its life. The Nevada Legislature said no to the sales tax, giving Clark County officials the privilege of levying that tax, and accepting that responsibility. We should not pass that tax. I believe that we will collect more sales tax if we don't raise the rate. And we will collect less casino tax if we raise the rate. That's what we want, isn't it, to become less dependent on gambling? It's good business. ( I'm talking about business, not shell games.)
Clark County is generating more wealth at this time than has ever been seen in this state. In ten years it will be gone if we don't demand responsible leadership from our Clark County Commission. Clark County will have thousands of acres of deteriorated houses, bankrupt local casinos, filthy water, and no lawns or ground cover to hold down the ever-growing clouds of super-fine, medically disastrous dust. If we are lucky, we will still have Nellis Air Force Base, and the Strip, but the gaming corporations are building nests elsewhere, don't count on them to continue to invest in an unattractive setting. How much uglier can you get than fecal coliform in the water? (Yes, it's there, and yes, it's just what it seems to be.) No wonder the casinos see a market adjustment on the horizon. They know exactly what's coming. Let's make them do it our way. Senator Titus' plan for a specific growth line is excellent.
Clark County's problems didn't originate in Northern Nevada, and these problems won't be solved in Northern Nevada. The problems are here, in Las Vegas. Visualize the remarkable potential of this time period and this vibrant collection of people situated in this unique, tough, visionary, wise, and fiscally responsible state. Deny a building permit. Tax and regulate the gambling industry. Gambling was legalized to benefit the population and to fund our public coffers, not to make out-of-state stockholders rich. If the big-money interests can keep the North and South feuding, then they won't have to address what is really wrong. The gaming industry, currently concentrating on building as many local casinos as possible, is interested in cranking out profits at the expense of customers, many of who are their own employees. That's the problem.
Tax the casinos. Return all of the money to Clark County that comes from Clark County. Use it to inspect buildings. Use the state money to enforce zoning codes. Use it for police protection and schools. It really doesn't matter if casinos complain, as long as they pay the tax. It doesn't even matter if they leave, as long as they leave before they destroy the place. We are in a disaster area, let's be aware of it.
The Strip is beautiful. It's the absolute best gambling environment in the world if we don't let them destroy it through bottom-line ignorance and greed. Come on, Las Vegas. Stop laying down for the casinos and the developers. Las Vegas is not only destroying its own area, you know. The casino-as-God, let's-all-gamble-till-we-die philosophy destroys the quality of life for the whole state. This is not the way that Nevada has always been. At least the mob, who were greedy brutes, and, no, I don't miss them, knew that they were greedy brutes. In contrast, we now have perfectly respectable well-educated managers who consider our incomes their market share if we are cultivated properly, and rotated to ensure fresh influx of cash. A local gambling market needs constant replenishment, you know, that's because people that gamble for years at a time at a steady pace go broke predictably. Please, legislators, realize that the growth is cancerous, feeding on the income of the citizens, nourishing fortunes that we will never see.
Sincerely, Ann Reynolds
Subject: Gambling isn't about money
Date: Sat, 5 Apr 1997
Dear Editor O'Callaghan (Las Vegas Sun),
People who analyze the casino market as though it were about money don't understand gambling. It seems to be about money, but it's actually about emotional vulnerability and tension release and fantasy. It's a denial of the value of money. It's a declaration of self control. It's a reduction of reality to a controllable variable. It's an act of faith in a faithless context.
Those psychological realms are nice places to visit, but no one lives there without either getting bored, or getting addicted. Importing your gambling market, turning them into locals, and then demanding percentage growth, as if this illusion were a sort of public service, converts the entire process into simple greed. How can a local market feed gambling as a growth industry? (By rapidly expanding the local population, at the expense of the existing population, until available resources are depleted.) And how can corporate gambling, which treats gambling as a public service, justify the pain that is caused by the aggressive marketing of its addictive and depleting product on a local basis?
The casino moguls who don't, wouldn't, and never will gamble, are quite similar to drug dealers who entice unwary customers with initial thrills and then settle in for the easy money guaranteed by the hypnotizing glow of an undemanding video poker program, and a curious ethic that states that it is somehow unethical to play less than 5 quarters at a time.
Every time a claim of "winners" is advertised in the local market, and every time a local casino is constructed, the gambling industry is levying its own tax on the community. The people who get addicted go broke, get bitter, get divorced, commit suicide, drink too much, ignore their families, smoke too much, consider their change girls to be their friends, and justify not tipping by developing the habit of broadcasting how much they've lost. And as their self-esteem becomes tied to their comp status, they lose their self image along with their retirement pay.
(Of course they choose to do this. . .and if they stopped choosing to do it, the local gambling business would go broke.) Most recent residents came here in search of an atmosphere of personal freedom, maybe under the mistaken impression that legal gambling provided that, when actually, it is the other way around. Nevada would still have personal freedom with more controls on legal gambling. (You don't have to buy it in Summerlin, either. . .those vistas belong to all of us, not just Howard Hughes customers.)
Legal gambling is a con game, it's a system where the state has allowed casinos to offer games for money where the house is statistically guaranteed to win. This has nothing to do with stockholder risk unless we are operating in a flooded market, like we are now, in which case the risk is too high. Legal gambling is (a) entertainment, or (b) theft. The difference is in the quality of service that you get, and whether or not you can afford to lose.
In the present situation, the management of the casinos, fresh from business school, armed with their percentages and their market projections, pretend not to know that they are con men. I'll even go so far as to say that's it's subliminal, but it isn't kinder to say that they really don't know. There is a point where they would have to be criminally stupid not to know. Are we at this point? Is the State of Nevada being manipulated by criminally stupid people, enmeshed in a vast self-hypnotism, laced with convenient denial?
The casino industry is making money because the games are rigged. They are subtly rigged, and they are legally rigged, but if we changed the rules so that the games had to be fair, their profit margin would go way, way, down, really, really quickly. They would notice right away, and Harvard Business School wouldn't be able to help them.
The more that local gaming is promoted by these Madison Avenue whiz kids, the more quickly the day is coming when legalized gambling is going to be unprofitable. The five casino complexes (that's a grapevine figure, please, someone, tell me that I'm wrong), that are slated for the Summerlin area aren't okay.
They are ill-conceived packages for making a fast buck. The effect of this growth on an already-declining market will have a debilitating effect on the existing casino market. To those who say that there is nothing that we can do about the casinos that have already been approved, I say baloney. We can tax them. We can sue Howard Hughes corporation for breach of the public trust. (What happened to our buffer zone around Red Rock?) We can put an absolute moratorium on local casinos in this flooded market.
And if the casinos get mad and leave, then let's call Donald Trump and make a deal that involves putting the people of Nevada first. (He's been on the verge of bankruptcy--maybe that should be a requirement for a gambling license. . .at least he knows how it feels.) Did you read the paper the other day where the casino spokesman said that it's more expensive to do business here because of the competition? So let's do the casinos a big favor, and stop (as in NOW) issuing local gaming permits.
This state belongs to disciplined residents, happy, free-wheeling tourists, knowledgeable casino owners, and creative small businessmen (including farmers). Throw in a major mining company or two that comes and goes like a thief in the night, the federal government, the illegal drug trade, and that's Nevada's economy. We can't afford to be overloaded with depressed poor people, which is a waste product of corporate local gaming. (Show me three single casino workers who make minimum wage plus tips, and I'll show you at least one that gambles all their tips. . .and in a town where they have no family ties, make that closer to two single casino workers. Do they use drugs? Do they sell drugs? You tell me.)
It's one thing to sell entertainment and provide some thrills. And a local casino can provide a haven for a lonely soul, but that's a responsibility that corporate gaming doesn't quite grasp. They would rather the state pick up after them. It's not just money that they are taking. A bottom line casino, out to make money for its stockholders, is getting rich at the expense of their customers self-esteem and their employee's self-respect. Let's control this insanity this spring, while we still have the chance, while we still have the market edge, and while we can still breathe the air. We will not pass this way again.
Sincerely, Ann Reynolds
Note: Copies of this article were Emailed to: Anne Pershing; Arthur Johnson; Assembly Speaker Joe Dini; Barry Smith; Bob Bartley; Clara; Andrew Barbano; Dr. Larry Paulson, FAX; Eloise Enos; George Carnes; Governor Bob Miller; Howard Copelan; Jackson Sourwine; James Welborn; Jo Cudahy; Joan Golden; Jon Ralston; Kenn Altine; Larry Henry; Marcia Ernst; Miguel Sepulveda; Mike Winne; Prof. Alan Zundel; Representative James Gibbons; Representative John Ensign; Rob Myers; Roy Theiss; Sam Dehne; Senator Dina Titus, Carson City; Senator Dina Titus, Las Vegas; Senator Harry M. Reid; Senator Richard H. Bryan; Steve Miller; Tamara Charland
We Have to Stop Before We Can Turn Around
Dear Editor O'Callaghan (Las Vegas Sun),
Las Vegas has enough population, and enough discontent, to set the mood for the entire state. The way that they handle their growth will set the stage for the way that corporations conduct themselves throughout the state. Whether we are dealing with corporate casinos, mining companies, or the Department of Energy, we have to sharpen our skills for dealing with large groups of money-minded bureaucrats.
I found Larry Henry's article on citizens against raising the sales tax for the water project intriguing. There seems to be the usual appeals to the population to save water so that we can have more growth. And then the Water Authority wants more sales taxes so that we can have more growth. Evidently more than one citizen is bothered by this rather blind plunge into over-populating this valley, and a couple of them testified to that effect early in the week at the legislative hearing.
Democrat David Goldwater's defensive approach to this criticism was disconcerting. Of course it was appropriate to question the sources of statistics, but what were the statistics? And how can there be a good argument for taxing the citizens when the new population is benefiting the casino industry and the land developers, and competing with the current population for resources? Did Assemblyman Goldwater really say that water rates would soar even higher if the sales tax isn't raised? Is he threatening us? Is he telling us that casino stockholders rights are sacrosanct, that cutting into casino profits are not even to be considered as a source of revenue? Is he saying that Del Webb Corporation, who posted a billion in revenue last year, mustn't be antagonized? Is he saying that sales tax or water rates are the only possible options to fund water delivery to the next wave of under-built, under-inspected, and cheaply-priced houses? Houses that will compete with existing houses for property value? Houses that will last 10 years? Houses that will be bought by people that can't afford them, and can't maintain them?
Anyone who lives in Las Vegas knows what our air quality was this last week. It was about one-third dust (partly due to the 500 miles of unpaved roads in this valley). The carbon monoxide levels are going to soar with the new Sands project, and there are still several plans that will be approved for more new houses on the outskirts of town. There are 5,000 houses for sale right now in the Las Vegas Valley. I read a couple of weeks ago about a Realtor complaining that it was almost impossible to qualify buyers at existing interest rate levels, and that she was afraid that if the price of houses went up that she wouldn't be able to sell any houses at all. Why are we building single-family homes on the edge of town to sell to people who can't afford them? And then taxing the existing population, and running over older neighborhoods to build freeways so that it is convenient for the newcomers to go to work on the Strip?
There will be union contracts for building the Sands, but what is the percentage of Nevada laborers that will be hired? (I've heard that that number is 20% Nevada workers, Mr. Goldwater, care to challenge me on that one?) And after the hotel, (reputedly on a scale that will rival the MGM Grand) is built, how much will the employees make, and where will they live? Five dollars an hour plus tips. Five people to a house, split the utilities, and trash the living room. Four and a half cars in the driveway, one for parts.
What a vision for the Valley. We can do better than this. We can scrap the as-yet unapproved suburban projects, and start a major downtown re-development. We can build well-insulated and well-designed high-rise structures that are priced so that the Strip employees can afford them, and we can institute frequent bus service to the Strip. We can double the population of police downtown, and we can require half of the policemen to live there. We can build luxury high-rises that are close to existing casinos downtown so that anybody that wants to move to Las Vegas to gamble won't be distracted by the Red Rock vista. We can encourage multi-use architecture, and small business downtown. We can require any casino that wants to develop Strip property to send the decision-making CEO to the County Commission. I want to watch him on TV, explaining to Commissioner Gates where his 7,000 employees are going to live. (Of course, this means that she has to ask him.) Now that would be truly great television. And if he didn't answer, or didn't show up, then we cancel the project.
And we should have a TV talk-show called "Vision for the Valley" that interviews casino owners, corporate big-guys, journalists, school teachers, strippers, policemen, taxi drivers, opera singers and window-tinters about what they see in Las Vegas in ten years, exactly how we are going to get there, and what they are willing to sacrifice to make it happen.
The sales tax is high enough. Tourists like low sales tax and breathable air and drinkable water, and so do the rest of us. We have to make some decisions that will disappoint the people who have invested in the valley periphery. Until we do, this activity will not stop. And if it doesn't stop, it will spread far beyond Las Vegas. Don't fool yourselves into thinking that Las Vegas isn't the future for Nevada. And for those of you who know and love Nevada, realize that the people who are making the money from this scenario are planning to leave, if they don't already live elsewhere.
Ann Reynolds, editor, The Vegas Citizen Internet Magazine
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Nevada Casinos Must Pay Their Share.
They Aren't Now. It's Not Even Close.
By Ann Reynolds
Dear Editor Mike O'Callaghan - Las Vegas Sun Newspaper,
Never has Nevada's commitment to education been so challenged as it is this
year. As Governor Miller vows that mediocrity isn't enough, he leaves the
solutions to the legislature. The problems of infrastructure and
pollution, clearly by-products of the "magic" that attracts the thousands
of people to Las Vegas each month, are local problems, to be solved by
Las Vegas will have to dig deep into its reserves of imagination and
resolve to even begin to solve these problems without the governor's
leadership, but perhaps it is where Clark County has to begin. Given that
the gambling industry hasn't come forth with voluntary contributions to the
school district (no one is surprised by this,) exactly how are these
educational goals to be reached?
More and more people come into the valley, looking for easy money, cheap
housing, and an entry-level job in a casino. At what point does growth
become malignant? And exactly how much power does Clark County have to
solve the problems that come with growth if they can neither tax nor
restrain the entity that causes and benefits from it?
There is no doubt that the people who move here benefit from the move; that
is, if they avoid succumbing to some of the available dependency-causing
behaviors that the gambling climate offers.
To what extent do the existing residents of Clark County benefit from the
constant inflow of people who make demands on the schools, the water, the
air quality? The neighborhoods are beginning to feel the crunch as they
discover that the convenience of new home owners is more important than the
homes that they have enjoyed for 30 years.
If the gambling industry is responsible for "about half" of the state
budget, then what way out do we have if we don't tax them at a rate that
will at least slow them down a little? If they are allowed to grow
unchecked by statute or pocketbook, then they will totally control us soon.
Forty percent of our budget represents 6 1/4 percent of their revenue?
Isn't that frightening to anyone out there? And if we choose to reduce
that percentage, how do we go about it?
I suggest that we tax them and spend the money on capital expenditures in
ways that promote our life-quality instead of their expansion. Las Vegas
has been the girl-friend of the gambling business for 50 years. We had
better start asking for some real commitment, because the big boys are
dancing with some expensive ladies in Iowa and Florida and other points
east. Those towns will not tolerate legalized gambling without assurances
of sufficient revenues to maintain quality communities. That means
tourist-oriented hotel complexes that can eventually compete with us. And
where are they raising the necessary revenues? Right here in Nevada.
Let's tax them. Now, before it's too late. If this crop of corporations
gets mad about it, there are always lots of gambling businesses that would
sell their mothers for the chance to do business here. It doesn't even
have to be a permanent tax, just enough to buy those computers for the
children that are already here.
We spend it on schools, parks and maintenance of existing neighborhoods,
and added police protection for existing neighborhoods. And we study every
possible way of reducing the air and water pollution in this area for the
sake of the health of our existing residents. This means requiring
dust-control measures during construction projects, and educating citizens
in the fine art of recalling city officials who don't inspect buildings
properly, and who don't enforce penalties for violations of existing
air-quality regulations. The air gets filthier every day.
Many existing casinos would greatly benefit from limiting local casino
growth. If we continue to allow the Strip corporations to invade the local
market, then we will have no casinos that aren't owned by 3 or 4
corporations, and the domination of this town by mid-western and eastern
money will be complete. We will be food.
Dr. Larry Paulson of the Nevada Seniors Coalition has requested of
Commission Chairwoman Yvonne Atkinson Gates that she hold a special hearing
on the 1/4% sales tax increase before officially recommending it to the
Nevada Legislature. Sales tax isn't a way for tourists to pay for our
lifestyle, it's a way for casinos and developers to avoid paying for their
own fair share by passing their costs on to the public every time that we
attempt to support any business other than their own. Please urge citizens
to call their county commissioners and ask that a public hearing be held
before submitting this increase as representing the will of the people of