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Court: Vegas Strip arena tax measure needs work
by Associated Press
Jun 21, 2012 | 1219 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print

CARSON CITY — The wording of a Las Vegas Strip sports arena tax initiative backed by casino giant Caesars Entertainment Inc. will have to be changed before it can be placed on the statewide ballot in November, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled.

The state high court didn’t strike the initiative from the ballot. Lawyer Jason Woodbury told the Las Vegas Review-Journal ( ) for a Thursday report that backers of the Arena Initiative Committee measure intend to go forward.

The court’s unanimous decision on Tuesday called the current wording of a 200-word description of the measure “deceptive and materially misleading” because it fails to disclose that it would eliminate from consideration other arena proposals.

The measure would impose a nearly 1 percent sales tax increase in a three-mile taxing district surrounding the Las Vegas Strip to fund a $500 million arena with at least 18,000 seats capable of hosting a pro basketball or hockey team.

The seven justices said the 200-word description circulated in 2010 didn’t properly tell signers that if voters approve the tax, the arena could be constructed only on land owned by Harrah’s Entertainment. The company is now part of Caesars Entertainment.

Several other arena proposals were being considered by the Clark County Commission at the time the petition was circulated, including one at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

The Caesars initiative is being challenged by Taxpayers for the Protection of Nevada Jobs, a group that includes MGM Resorts International and Boyd Gaming Corp. The casino companies fear a Caesars arena would take business away from their venues.

Stacey Escalante, a representative for Nevadans Against Special Taxation, called the state high court ruling a victory for her group. She said that under the law, petition signatures are invalid if the description of effect is changed.

Caesars spokesman Gary Thompson said his company is reviewing the decision. He declined immediate comment.

Woodbury said he’ll offer new language to a state court judge in Carson City. He said the judge or Secretary of State Ross Miller could call for a completely new description of effect, or a description also might not be included on the ballot at all.

After gathering enough signatures in 2010, the arena initiative went to the 2011 Legislature. But state lawmakers refused to pass it.

Instead, they approved a competing ballot measure that would prohibit different sales tax rates in a county. That would kill the Caesars proposal.

Unless the Supreme Court orders the Caesars plan to be removed, both measures will appear on the November general election ballot. The one that receives the most votes would win.
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