The Associated Press March 17, 2011, 5:36PM ET

Nevada Senate rejects Vegas arena initiative

The Nevada Senate passed a resolution Thursday rejecting an initiative petition to create a taxing district for a sports arena on the Las Vegas Strip, sending the measure to the 2012 ballot.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 4 was approved on a voice vote and now goes to the Assembly, though with the Senate's action, the vote there is moot.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas, said the Legislature needs to concentrate on the economy and state budget, and that the arena wars should be left to local control in Clark County.

"This is not an appropriate issue for this body to take at this time and we are not going to interject ourselves," Horsford said on the floor.

"This legislative session is about funding jobs now. We're serious about cuts. We're serious about reform. That is the focus of this legislative session and will continue to be so."

But Horsford also said that the Legislature retains authority to propose arena alternatives, though he declined to elaborate.

Backers of the arena circulated petitions and gathered more than 200,000 signatures statewide. The measure would authorize a special taxing district in the Strip area, where an additional sales tax of 0.9 percent would be imposed to fund construction of the $448 million arena on land donated by Caesars Entertainment, formerly known as Harrah's Entertainment.

The initiative is also being challenged in court by Taxpayers for the Protection of Nevada Jobs, a group that includes MGM and Boyd Gaming Corp., which have opposed the measure since its inception because of concerns it would take business away from their own venues.

That lawsuit alleges that signature gatherers deceived the public into signing a petition for a tax increase that would benefit a single private company.

The Caesars initiative isn't the only sports arena proposal being considered in Clark County.

Last month Nevada university regents gave the developer behind Staples Center in Los Angeles 150 days to exclusively negotiate with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas on plans to build a 40,000 seat stadium on campus for football, basketball and other sports.

The preliminary agreement between UNLV and Majestic Realty Co. allows the Los Angeles developer that also owns the Silverton casino in Las Vegas to take their plan for 150 acres beyond conceptual sketches. The agreement also allows time to seek state legislation to make the campus a special district, so taxes generated there can be used to support the project.


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