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Nevada judge dismisses petition for raised gambling tax in Nevada

TAGs: Casino News, government, Las Vegas, Nevada, tax

las-vegas-skylineLeave it to confusing language to derail a petition seeking raised gambling taxes in Nevada. At some point, you just have to get straight to the point, right?

A petition filed by citizens of Nevada, led by Las Vegas businessman Monte Miller, seeking to raise gambling taxes paid by Nevada’s largest casinos, was debunked by District Judge Todd Russell, citing that language used in the petition’s description of effect was misleading. The ruling was made after it was determined in a 90-minute hearing in Carson City that the language used in the petition for a Fair 9 percent Gambling Revenue Tax didn’t clearly explain what the petitioners wanted to accomplish with the measures they wanted to take.

As part of the movement, petitioners are seeking a raise of the highest level of gambling taxes in the state to increase from 6.75% all the way up to 9%. The raised tax levels are aimed at casinos that make more than $250,000 in monthly gambling revenue.Fighting the fight in behalf of the casinos is the Nevada Resort Association, an industry group that comprises some of state’s biggest casino companies. For their part, the NRA, through their lawyer Matt Griffin, contended that the language used in the petition, particularly the use of “un” versus “non”, and “gross revenue” versus “gross gambling revenue”, was not clearly stated and thus contributed to confusion and inaccuracy.

According to Griffin, “gross gambling revenue” refers to the amount casinos earn from slot machines and other forms of gambling-related activities while “gross revenue” covers a wider scope of income that includes hotel stays, food & beverage income, and even entertainment revenue.Confusing one for the other or taking both phrases to mean as one would end up costing casinos billions of dollars, according to Griffin, especially if the sole intent of the petition was to implement a higher tax rate from sheer gambling income.

Put it this way: by citing “gross revenue” in its description of effect, the petition mis-used the phrase when they really should have used “gross gambling revenue”.

On top of that, Griffin also contended that the petition mistakenly referred to “non-restricted” license holders – casinos that carry more than 15 slot machines – as “unrestricted” license holders, thereby creating even more confusion to the use of proper language in the petition. Another contention raised by Griffin was the lack of clarity in the petition as to who was being taxed and who would have to pay it, noting that open interpretation of the petition could mean that machine manufacturers and distributors would also be subjected to pay increased taxes.

For his part, Miller doesn’t appear to be undaunted by the unfavorable ruling on their end, saying that he would just re-file a new petition – hopefully with clearer language – while going through the same rigors of a signature drive before filing the new petition with the secretary of state’s office. The goal is to gather 72,000 John Hancocks by mid-November for the bill to be set to the 2013 Legislature where it will be up for consideration.

For all their time and effort drawing up this petition and seeking the requisite number of signatures for it to be once again taken seriously, Monte Miller needs to be very careful with the language he uses this time around. It’s hard enough to have a motion like this receive support in a gambling state like Nevada, but to shoot yourselves in the foot with something as simple as “proper language” won’t get you too many brownie points from those people that decide whether this kind of initiative is worth pursuing.

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