Las Vegas Tribune

By Steve Miller

June 3, 1999

Bravo to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission!

"I think the New Jersey appropriate," MGM Grand President Terrance Lanni told fellow commissioners. "I know that will come as a very unpleasant comment to a number of my friends who are in political office and seeking it in Nevada, but I happen to believe it." And the final vote was 6 to 3 to recommend that gambling companies keep their noses out of politics!

I have observed gaming mogul Steve Wynn spending millions on making sure that only those who agree with him are elected to office in Nevada, New Jersey, and Mississippi. I believe that the outcome of his meddling in elections can be seen in the following bizarre examples: A fifteen million dollar tax break for his private art collection; Unlimited terms for Nevada judges; A frozen 6.25% Nevada gaming tax; Inordinate numbers of Metro police assigned to the Strip; Private sidewalks in front of his hotels; The Treasure Island encroaching within 16 feet of Spring Mountain Road; The ridiculous S shaped tunnel proposed for Harmon Ave. to go under the Strip; The free gift of Carson Street to the Golden Nugget; Jan Jones traveling around the country to promote gaming expansion; Water wasting features in front of hotels allowed in spite of county laws; A tax funded private tunnel in Atlantic City; The killing of the People Mover down the center of the Strip; The Fremont Street Experience; etc.

Many will remember when Clark County Registrar of Voters Debbie West was unceremoniously canned from her position as chief honcho of our paper ballot elections back in 1993. The "lateral transfer" occurred after hundreds of thousands of unused paper ballots were discovered in the Election Dept. warehouse along with the unexplained, unscheduled shredding of ballots that had been used in the most recent election. This information surfaced during a recount request. The results of that recount of the paper ballots surprised no one in light of all of the suspicious activity that had been observed taking place at the Election Dept. warehouse the night before the recount (see LV Tribune, June 2, 1999). This recount also proved just how obvious the rigging of a paper ballot election might be if it were to occur! The system needed to be changed for more reasons than appeared on the surface.

Wynn's Community Relations Department immediately hired Debbie West's former assistant Rob Elliot. Elliot was highly criticized for apparently being as incompetent as West during some of the most suspect elections ever held in Clark County on paper ballots. Coincidentally, after Elliot's hiring at the Mirage, the Sequoia Pacific voting machines were purchased by Clark County. The purchase took place against the recommendations of State Senators Ann O'Connel and William O'Donnell, along with negative votes cast by County Commissioners Don Schlesinger and Karen Hayes. Our elections suddenly went paperless. Schlesinger and Hayes were promptly voted out of office at the next election. Since then a reliable recount has become impossible to obtain.

Even in the face of startling evidence that the paperless election equipment would not allow an honest recount, our dutiful County Commissioners apparently bowed to unseen powers, purchased the unproven equipment and hired a new Registrar, Katherine Ferguson, who was intimately familiar with the new equipment from her previous place of employment in Bexar County, Texas.

The National Coalition Against Gambling Expansion, in agreement with Nevada State Senator Joe Neal, have been lobbying the National Gambling Impact Study Commission for the past several years to recommend that state legislatures adopt laws similar to those in New Jersey and Michigan that prohibit the gambling industry from contributing to local and state political campaigns. As the Nevada State Coordinator of this organization I am fully aware of the casino's bogus argument that they are somehow protected under the Constitution and cannot be prohibited from giving obscene amounts of money to their favorite politicians to do their bidding.

Casinos are a "Privileged industry" that is heavily regulated and controlled by state authorities. To the dismay of many, often these same authorities have landed profitable jobs after their retirement in the same industry that they were appointed to control. In New Jersey and Michigan such is prohibited, and rightly so. Furthermore, in New Jersey and Michigan, since the regulatory officials are appointed by elected politicians who may be indebted to their campaign contributors, the industries that are governed by these same officials, such as gaming, are prohibited from contributing to the elections of those who may make such appointments. This includes city councils, county commissions, and state political positions.

Prohibition of casinos being involved in politics makes perfect sense in light of the bizarre examples I have stated above involving our state's biggest political campaign contributors such as Steve Wynn and other casino owners. I highly recommend that Nevada's poor regulatory model not be used as an example for other states -- not unless the rest of the nation wants to lose its' representative form of government as has been the case recently here in Nevada. Las Vegas has unfortunately become the poster child for such a prohibition.