The president of the Nevada Resort Association says Sen. Joe Neal's proposed 5 percent increase in the gaming tax is "irresponsible and destructive."
Bill Bible, a former chairman of the state Gaming Control Board and former state budget director, said Neal's plan would raise gross gaming taxes 80 percent and is "the most reckless taxation policy I have seen in more than three decades of public service."
"Gaming already is the most heavily taxed industry in the state of Nevada," he said.
Bible added that six of the state's 10 largest property tax payers are gaming businesses and that the industry's customers also generate huge amounts of sales revenue.
He said raising the tax on the state's largest casinos from 6.25 percent to 11.25 percent would force marginal properties to shut down and make even the biggest casinos lay off workers to trim operational costs. It would apply only to those casinos with more than $1 million gross gaming revenues a month.
"Sen. Neal's tax will put Nevadans out of work, whether they are casino workers or the individuals and suppliers that provide ancillary services," he said.
Neal last year proposed a 2 percent tax hike to the 1999 Legislature. That bill was buried with almost no discussion or debate.
"The Legislature knew raising taxes by that magnitude would cripple the industry," said Bible.
He urged voters to reject the plan as well.
Assembly Majority Leader Richard Perkins, D-Henderson, said he considered the petition to be premature. " We're in the middle of a comprehensive review of state budgets and programs. How can we put a number on what amount of money we might need, if any?" he said.
Neal estimates his plan will raise nearly $400 million a year. He wants 45 percent of the new tax money to go to public education, 38 percent to cut vehicle privilege taxes, 8 percent to raise Nevada Highway Patrol salaries, 7 percent to help diversify the economy and 2 percent to fight gambling addiction.
He adds that Nevada casino operators pay ''the lowest taxes in the world,'' the tax rate hasn't been increased since 1987 and Nevada resorts are investing profits from a low-tax environment in states that compete with Nevada.
Neal has focused on major resorts on the Las Vegas Strip, saying they've reported big profits and it's clear they can afford to pay more.
The Strip profits were included in a state report showing Nevada's major resorts had combined pretax net profits of $1.13 billion in fiscal 1998, or an 8.2 percent return on gross revenues of $13.88 billion.
Neal has until Nov. 14 to get 44,009 signatures of registered voters to submit the petition to the 2001 session of the Nevada Legislature.
If the Legislature fails to act, the plan will be on the 2002 general election ballot. University of Nevada polls for the past several years have consistently shown support for a gambling tax increase.
Associated Press reporter Brendan Riley contributed to this article.