The gambling industry recognizes that
Nevada does not generate enough revenue to pay for the needs
of the nation's fastest growing state growth mainly
sparked by casinos.
The industry's own conduct proves it. Gambling
has been the driving force behind hundreds of millions in tax
increases on everyone but itself.
Nevada casinos pay the world's lowest taxes.
In foreign countries, taxes on gaming gross range from 20% to
Other states and countries realize that
gambling revenue comes at high cost to the community.
The industry for decades all but ignored
gambling addiction until the U.S. government started making noises
about a federal gaming tax.
Even using the most conservative numbers,
the social cost is astounding, ranging from $13,200 to $52,000
per victim per year. A University of Michigan analysis projected
that five percent of Nevada's population suffers from a gambling
At one percent, Nevada's cost stands at
more than $224 million per year. At five percent, the annual
impact tops $1.1 billion. A
recent UNLV study found that 6.6 percent of Las Vegans
are pathological or problem gamblers.
Gambling makes much of the $578 million
it expects to pay the state this year. But that only represents
8.96 percent of Nevada's 1999-2000 budget. Of that, $43.8 million
is entertainment tax passed through from patrons.
If we do nothing, casinos will soon get
back more in corporate welfare than they pay in taxes. More than
$400 million has been taken out of the Reno-Sparks property tax
base for casino-promoting downtown redevelopment projects. Las
Vegas has suffered subtraction of more than $281 million.
Room taxes shunted to convention and visitors
authorities around the state now approach $200 million a year.
Such financial misdirection has squeezed
municipalities which have had nowhere to turn but property taxes
for necessities such as parks. This explains why such levies
have consistently outpaced inflation in many parts of Nevada.
Our casinos have taken their profits and
invested in states where they gladly pay higher taxes.
If any other evidence is needed, please
note that gambling is scrambling once again to find other people
Incoming businesses are principal targets.
Some compete with casinos for the low wage labor pool. Others
take great interest in upgrading the school system because they
need educated workers to compete in a world market.
Gaming has demonstrated little interest
in education. Otherwise, it would voluntarily pay more taxes
rather than stand by while Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn
takes $18 million from schools this year alone to subsidize his
It is little wonder that we consistently
rank as a hazardous
place to raise children.
It's time to balance the books.
Beginning in January, I will circulate
an initiative petition to add five percentage-points onto the
gross tax paid by the state's largest, most profitable gambling
enterprises. Every penny will be deductible on federal tax returns,
so it may be viewed as largely keeping tax money from going to
For additional information, such as how
I propose to allocate proceeds, Nevadans may contact me through
the legislature or through this website.
A slightly edited version
of this commentary was published in the Reno Gazette-Journal
of Thursday, 8-26-99.