An Overdue Candid look At Nevada’s Dominant Industry

By Ralph Heller, Npri Senior Consulting Editor

Americans love recreational activities and according to The Economist about 177 million of us in 1995 participated in or watched baseball, football, hockey, basketball, golf and car racing. But of even greater interest to Nevada is the fact that almost that many Americans — about 154 million of us — walked through the doors of the country’s casinos.

Those numbers strike me as a bit stretched, but even if they are slight exaggerations they are indicators of how increasing numbers of Americans spend their time. And of no less interest is the fact that in 1995 Americans wagered $550 billion in one form of gambling or another — slot machines, table games, horse and dog racing, bookmaking, jai alai, card rooms, lotteries, the works — and a whopping 40 percent of that activity took place inside casinos.

But it’s a different gambling world than that of just a decade and a half ago. As recently as 1982, for example, table games and slot machines in just two states, Nevada and New Jersey, accounted for 40.3 percent of the nation’s gross gambling revenue, with table games in those two states edging out slot machines as the primary money maker.

By 1995 table games and slot machines in Nevada and New Jersey were accounting for just 24.7 percent of gross gambling revenue, with slot machines in those two states producing almost twice as much revenue as table games.

This, then, is the rapidly changing world of gambling the leaders of Nevada’s dominant industry will be grappling with as the Board of the American Gaming Association prepares to convene on July 31 in Las Vegas. Who the major Nevada leaders in gaming are these days and what is known of their priorities and their ability to work together are the subjects of this month’s cover story by Nevada’s most widely published political analyst, Jon Ralston, and he pulls no punches.

Also coming to Las Vegas this summer are the nation’s state governors for a meeting of the National Governors’ Association, chaired this year by Nevada’s Governor Bob Miller. Yet despite the fact that the Association has a budget of over $13 million, financed in large part by taxpayers, most citizens know little or nothing about the Association — exactly what it is, how it functions, where the money comes from (directly and indirectly), and how little it is likely to accomplish. In this issue NPRI Research Analyst D. Dowd Muska lifts the veil, to give rank-and-file citizens an honest look at their National Governors’ Association.

Also in this issue after a one month absence we welcome back Elko Daily Free Press Editorial Page Editor Dan Steninger whose scrutiny of government misconduct has earned his newspaper readers far, far from Elko. While reporting on an ongoing struggle against government arrogance in Elko County, Steninger notes that Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Director Pete Morros claimed that the employees of the Nevada Division of Wildlife are "above reproach," only to find himself corrected by an Elko County commissioner who explained to Morros the difference between being "above reproach" and believing that one is "above the law."

In this month’s Centerfold Nevada Journal Managing Editor Erica Olsen has assembled Part II of her series entitled "Legalized Extortion," although I have warned her that there are so many taxes and fees collected by government these days, she’s unlikely to ever unearth them all.

And finally in this issue you’ll find the story of what really happened to Amelia Earhart 60 years ago. Your favorite newspaper could have reported to you the facts of her disappearance when they were revealed 40 or 50 years ago, but the press doesn’t like to rush into these things.

Under the leadership of President Judy Cresanta, NPRI continues to undertake and underwrite the nuts-and-bolts research government and the press no longer seem to care about. So pour a cup of coffee, sit back, and prepare to enjoy an evening of rewarding, informative and entertaining reading.

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