Gauging massive impact of gaming resort industry on Nevada
You’re seeking gaming industry expertise? Then seek out Virginia Valentine, who applies that expertise every day as head of the Nevada Resort Association (http://www.nevadaresorts.org/). Since 1965, the association has advocated for the industry on state and local government regulations, lawmaking and policies that affect gaming and tourism.
Before taking the reins of the Nevada Resort Association in 2011, Valentine served as both Clark County Manager and City of Las Vegas Manager, as well as the first chief engineer/general manager of the Clark County Regional Flood Control District.
A professional engineer with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Idaho and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, Valentine also serves on the board of directors of the Nevada Department of Transportation.
It’s been almost 90 years since Nevada legalized gambling. Given the size of our state’s gaming and hospitality industry today, I’ve often wondered if state leaders realized what a consequential decision that was or if they merely considered it a short-term fix to the challenges of the day – the Great Depression and a steep slowdown in mining.
Who would have guessed they were creating the foundation for a statewide industry that would one day provide nearly $68 billion in total economic output, support 450,100 jobs and help the state attract almost 57 million annual visitors? After all, Nevada was home to only 94,000 people in 1931. Today, nearly five times that amount of people work in jobs supported by the state’s resort industry.
It’s fascinating to look back at the roots of our industry and see how we have grown and grown through twists and turns of various political, economic and social climates to mature into the respected, successful industry we are today. It has not been an easy path, with lessons learned and various experiments along the way. Yet, through the decades, Nevada’s resort industry has harnessed imagination, mastered reinvention and possessed the required resiliency to remain the undisputed economic engine that powers Nevada.
The Nevada Resort Association recently took an in-depth look at our economic engine and released our findings in the latest Nevada Gaming Fact Book (http://www.nevadaresorts.org/about/factbook/).
This comprehensive report looks at the contributions of the state’s largest industry through employment, investment dollars, tax revenue, philanthropic activities and environmental sustainability efforts, among other key economic indicators.
Today, more than one in every four Nevada workers is directly employed within the leisure and hospitality industry. Zooming in on this, you’ll find the resort industry offers careers with competitive wages and health benefits among many other valuable employee advantages for our diverse workforce. Nevada leads the nation when it comes to hospitality wages. Last year, the industry paid nearly $12 billion in wages and benefits to its employees – the most of any other industry sector in the state.
Our industry remains focused on expanding economic activity and creating new opportunities through immense investments in Nevada’s future. At last count, there are 45 tourism investment projects either underway or planned across the state to ensure our industry stays competitive, drawing more visitors and encouraging them to stay longer. These capital projects, estimated to cost nearly $18 billion, create good-paying jobs, provide more opportunities for local suppliers, grow the tax base and offer new entertainment experiences for residents as well.
These projects join the existing $64 billion portfolio of assets Nevada’s hotel-casino owners and operators currently maintain. Given these holdings, hotel-casino companies are the state’s largest property taxpayers, holding seven of the top 10 spots of the highest appraised taxpayers in Clark County and four of the top 10 spots in Washoe County.
The gaming resort industry’s role in the state’s tax structure and climate cannot be understated. Our industry is Nevada’s largest contributor of state and local taxes helping Nevada maintain a low-burden tax environment. In fact, the Tax Foundation ranks Nevada in the top 10 best tax climate states, due in large part to the contributions of the gaming industry and its patrons. In fiscal year 2018, our industry contributed $1.5 billion to the state’s general fund through various taxes and fees. That’s nearly 40 percent of the overall general fund. Looking at only industry-specific taxes, such as gaming taxes, live entertainment taxes and room taxes, our industry generated nearly $1.8 billion in payments to the state in fiscal year 2018.
While these numbers tell a significant part of our story, there’s also the immeasurable difference our industry makes for our planet and our community’s most vulnerable citizens through our philanthropic contributions and sustainable solutions. Our industry donates millions of dollars to local nonprofits each year, supports and promotes employee volunteerism programs and provides in-kind donations of much-needed goods and services to organizations in need. In addition, the resort industry continues to lead the way in a variety of environmental sustainability programs. Our companies have achieved LEED certification (“Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design,” bestowed by the U.S. Green Building Council) and received various national green ratings and recognition by reducing water consumption; lowering carbon footprints and energy consumption; and diverting more and more waste from landfills.
Finally, in recognition of March having been National Problem Gambling Awareness Month, we affirm our commitment to ensuring our entertainment remains fun and our guests play responsibly. Working with community partners and national organizations, our industry funds research and resources designed to combat problem gambling and raise awareness. We also provide training to our employees about the importance of responsible gaming and incorporate effective policies and procedures into our operations.
The gaming and hospitality industry’s contributions to Nevada’s way of life are as diverse and expansive as our great state. We are proud of our longstanding role in Nevada’s economy and appreciate the collaborative approach taken today by our state’s leaders to ensure the gaming and hospitality industry continues to generate benefits and opportunities for each and every Nevadan for decades to come.
We’re even prouder of our commitment to the community to be responsible corporate citizens as it’s the greatest way we can honor your trust and the legacy of those audacious leaders who believed the legalized gaming industry would be the start of something good.
Voices of Vegas features guest columnists from all walks of public life in Las Vegas. With columns touching on local cultural, historical, social, civic, educational and humanitarian topics, among others, they weave a tapestry of perspectives that emphasize the dynamism, depth and benefits of the Southern Nevada tourism industry.
To offer feedback on this column or suggestions for future stories on Las Vegas Newswire, contact Managing Editor Steve Bornfeld at SBornfeld@lvcva.com.