Harrah’s eyes public money

At this month’s Republican rally featuring Sarah Palin, some folks were handing out flyers to combat one of the stranger political initiatives on the scene right now.

It’s this: Harrah’s is circulating statewide initiative petitions to raise the sales tax in a small local tax district in Las Vegas to obtain funding for an arena. Activists at the rally were urging voters not to sign the petitions.

Would voters across the state vote to give a government subsidy to Harrah’s to build a Las Vegas arena?

“They want to build an arena down in Vegas, and they’re telling people that it’s in Reno,” said activist Steve Gale, who was handing out some of the flyers at the Palin event. “And it’s a hockey team. There’s already a team down there. All it’s going to do is raise taxes by .09 percent. That’s $1 million per hundred million dollars spent in the state. So it’s basically a tax increase.”

Though it has received very little attention in the north, the dispute has generated a court battle between the MGM Mirage and Harrah’s, with MGM trying to disqualify the petition. Nevada District Judge Todd Russell ruled in favor of Harrah’s in what he said was a close call. MGM Mirage has argued that if Harrah’s wants an arena it should pay to build it with corporation funds as other Las Vegas casinos have done instead of being subsidized by taxpayers.