Casino trade group fails in effort to oust Democratic lawmakers and push moderates – The Nevada Independent


Nevada’s powerful gambling industry has no plans to back down from its involvement in the legislative primaries, even after its $1.5 million campaign to boost four candidates performed poorly at the June polls.

Only one of four candidates backed by the state’s gambling industry — usually one of the biggest political contributors to state lawmakers — won their primary election in June. The other three losses came despite a well-funded campaign backed by the gaming industry, details of which were not revealed until after the state’s July 15 campaign funding reporting deadline.

Gaming taxes make up about 17% of state general fund revenue, second only to sales tax. Nevada casinos pay a 6.75% tax on gross gaming revenue – the lowest rate in the nation – and the industry recently dodged an attempt to raise that rate sharply with a proposed ballot measure. supported by the teachers’ union.

In late January, the Nevada Resort Association announced the formation of a PAC to support “thoughtful people on both sides of the aisle” who “understand the value of the gambling industry and resorts.” It has raised more than $2.3 million from its members for the purpose of “recruiting, evaluating, endorsing and electing candidates for state legislature in 2022”.

This PAC in turn transferred $1.5 million to another PAC – Nevada Rising, which was registered with the Secretary of State’s office on April 12, between the campaign finance deadlines of the first and last second trimester. That meant he didn’t have to report fundraising or spending figures until nearly a month after the primary election. Nevada Rising also received $25,000 from the Las Vegas Metro Chamber.

Washoe County School Board Administrator Angie Taylor was the only Nevada Rising PAC-backed candidate to win the primary election, after defeating teachers’ union leader Brian Lee in the Assembly District 27 Democratic primary. .

The other three candidates backed by the games-funded PAC all lost their candidacies. Two main Democratic challengers (Chuck Short and Joe Dalia) failed to eliminate a pair of female, Las Vegas-based incumbent Assembly members – Cecelia Gonzalez in District 16 and Lesley Cohen in District 29. The PAC also backed Republican candidate Jacob Williams, who lost the primary to conservative author Sam Kumar in the GOP primary for Reno-based District 25.

The losses haven’t necessarily scared the industry away from continued involvement in legislative races. On Monday, the Nevada Resorts PAC released general election endorsements for 13 Assembly candidates — nine Democrats and four Republicans — and in a statement last week, Nevada Resort Association official Virginia Valentine said the Industry PAC would continue to support candidates from either major political party who “Respect and defend our state’s largest industry, small businesses and working families.” We remain passionately committed to this mission.

Billy Vassiliadis, CEO of R&R Partners, a longtime lobbyist for the resort association, was more blunt.

“This primary is just the beginning,” he said in an interview Monday. “This PAC is not going away. The resort association is not going away. We will continue to seek both candidates and perhaps electoral reform and campaign reform, whatever it takes, to get to a place where well-meaning, broad-minded and open-minded people spirit will be elected to the Legislative Assembly.

“I mean literally. I’m not talking about gaming fans,” he continued. “We’re talking about people who are willing to sit down and listen to a wide range of arguments and not just think they owe one constituency their wholehearted and wholehearted support, without caring or heeding what what those impacts might be.”

Beyond a desire for more moderate candidates, the gaming industry’s insertion into the legislative primaries appears to be driven by a variety of recent heated legislative debates, from the heavily-solicited 2021 “Right of Return” bill pushed by the Culinary Union to give layoffs workers in the gaming and tourism industry think first of returning to their jobs at the COVID Accountability Bill passed in a 2020 special session.

Vassiliadis said there was no doubt about the races the PAC industry was involved in, or the decision to challenge the Democratic incumbents, saying the industry wanted to draw a “line in the sand”. He noted that other business groups, and even some labor groups, were likely to begin supporting candidates through the Nevada Rising PAC as well.

“There is nothing personal against Congresswoman Cohen. She seems like a good person. But at the end of the day, there seemed to be a wall when it came to industry issues,” he said.

Cohen declined to comment. Gonzalez did not return an email seeking comment.

Although candidates are prohibited from raising more than $10,000 from a single source each campaign cycle, state-level political action committees are permitted to raise and spend unlimited amounts.

And the Nevada Rising PAC spent most of the money raised — burning $1.49 million, all of which was classified as ads or consultants. He has recorded spend at businesses across the political spectrum, including more than half a million dollars in advertising spend through Advanced Micro Targeting (a leading ballot qualification and voter contact company whose CEO, Michael Roberson, is a former Republican state senator) and an additional $353,000 in advertising spending at Left Hook, a political consulting and advertising firm that typically works with Democratic candidates and causes.

According to Facebook’s ad library, the group spent more than $83,000 ahead of the state’s June primary. This too placed TV ad reservations in the Reno TV market – a rarity in short-ballot state legislative races.

PAC-backed applicants also received substantial direct support – a total of $154,000 – from the gaming industry:

  • Short, a retired longtime insolvency administrator, raised more than $56,000 in the second quarter, including $46,500 directly from the gambling industry.
  • Taylor raised more than $115,000 in the second quarter, including $44,500 from the gaming industry.
  • Dalia raised $25,500 from the gaming industry in the second quarter, out of nearly $42,000 raised.
  • Williams, which raised just over $68,000 in the second quarter, received $38,500 from companies affiliated with the gaming industry during the same period.


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