Gaming tax petition drive under way |

Gaming tax petition drive under way

Saying the gaming industry is using its political power to block any legislative discussion of higher gaming taxes, State Sen. Joe Neal is taking his case to Nevada voters.

He filed his initiative petition Tuesday with the Secretary of State’s Office, vowing to raise well over the 44,009 signatures needed to put a 5 percent increase in gross gaming revenue taxes before the voters.

“There’s no doubt we can get the signatures,” said Neal, D-North Las Vegas.

But he admitted it won’t be without a fight.

“The gamers have taken the position they have something to lose here and we have to be prepared to deal with it,” he said. “I think an effort will be made to dampen the spirit of the people.

He predicted gaming corporations would try everything possible to convince casino workers the tax hike will cost them their jobs.

And he said the industry is already looking for some one to run against him for the North Las Vegas Senate seat he has held since 1973.

Neal made the gaming tax the centerpiece of his 1998 run for governor. He was defeated in the primary by Jan Jones. But he said polls show Nevadans favor a gaming tax above all other increases if more taxes become necessary.

He said the growing strain on the state budget to provide services to Nevadans – many of them minimum wage workers in casinos – makes more revenue vital for Nevada government.

“We have a tremendous amount of growth in this state – particularly in Clark County – and the gamers are not paying for that growth,” he said.

He said once he has the signatures, he will present the issue to the Nevada Legislature, giving that body one more chance to act rather than have the voters impose the tax.

But he said he expects the vote will be necessary anyway since his fellow legislators completely buried his 1999 bill seeking a 2 percent increase on only the biggest casinos.

Under state initiative petition laws, they have until Nov. 14 to collect 44.009 signatures of registered Nevada voters. Neal said they expect to do so with volunteers but that they will consider hiring professional signature gatherers if the volunteers are having trouble. He said he hopes to collect far more than the minimum needed to qualify for the ballot.

The petition seeks an additional 5 percent of all gross gaming revenue over $1 million a month. That would raise total gross revenue taxes on the largest of Nevada’s casinos to 11.25 percent.

Neal said the casinos will just write off the increased state tax on their federal tax returns. And he said the tax won’t be applied to Nevada’s smaller casinos.