Wednesday, May 12

Nevada can’t afford to lose grip on tourism, entertainment supremacy

Las Vegas News Bureau

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) launched a new slogan, What Happens Here, Only Happens Here, throughout the city on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020.

When a basketball player gives up a dominating dunk to an opponent, there’s an old slang term for it. It’s called getting posterized, meaning that the defender will be shown, humiliatingly, on a poster of the dunk.

Las Vegas, we just got posterized by Orlando. Last week’s announcement that the NBA would play out an abbreviated season there was a massive win for Orlando and a disappointing loss for Las Vegas, which also competed for the NBA games.

We can’t let this go unanswered. It’s crucial that we respond by giving the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority the resources it needs to beat back Orlando and other cities that are working 24/7/365 to lure away our conventions and beat us out of events.

That’s especially the case with Orlando, which for years has specifically and deeply targeted Las Vegas’ travel and tourism industry.

The NBA games, which will feature 22 teams in a playoff format at the ESPN Wide World of Sports site, will be played without fans, but make no mistake: They’re solid gold for Orlando, where Major League Soccer also is resuming its season.

“Event organizers are familiar with Orlando as a destination, but for the public, they’ll learn an awful lot about what a wonderful venue the Wide World of Sports is,” Jason Siegel, Greater Orlando Sports Commission president and CEO, told Front Office Sports. “It enhances the already great perception of the community for when we have the next conversations with FIFA as it relates to the World Cup, or the bids we’ve put out for the 2022 to 2026 NCAA championship events.

“It just lends itself to an already robust portfolio of hosting marquee events,” he concluded.

Indeed it does. It also means Las Vegas will have to fight that much harder to draw events from Orlando and elsewhere.

The problem is that the LVCVA is in a vastly weakened state. It’s eliminating 80 employees from its staff of 455 full-time employees and furloughing 270 workers to deal with budget cuts brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

This necessitates a call to arms. In the way that an army can only go as far as its supply lines take it, Las Vegas relies on the LVCVA to grow and retain our economic vitality.

It must be funded to the most complete extent possible, for the good of not only Southern Nevada but the entire state. As Las Vegas goes, so goes Nevada.

Lawmakers must remember this as they make budget decisions in the coming months and years. Funneling a disproportionate share of tax revenue to the north has got to stop.

To understand why, consider that there is no provision in the lucrative live entertainment tax to allow that money to be retained in Las Vegas. It all goes to the state general fund, where a portion of it gets used to fund operations in Northern Nevada.

Meanwhile, a large share of Southern Nevada’s room-tax revenue goes to statewide education.

Yet Orlando keeps virtually all of its revenue from tourist taxes, which are significantly lower than those in Las Vegas. That’s because Orlando doesn’t have to pass its revenue along to the state, and therefore is able to keep its tax rate down.

Competitive disadvantages like this need to be fixed, and we need to get the LVCVA back on its feet as soon as possible.

There was a time when Las Vegas never would have lost a competition like the one to land the NBA. Just look at the National Finals Rodeo, which we plucked away from Oklahoma City in 1984 and have held onto ever since, beating back full-scale attempts by other cities to grab it away from us. Yes, that includes Orlando.

Now, with Nevada facing an unprecedented challenge to recover, a strong LVCVA is essential.

It’s going to be a long, hard road back. With Nevada’s unemployment the highest in the nation, the airline industry’s struggles and the possibility of further COVID-19 outbreaks, our economic crisis isn’t nearly over.

We can’t afford to let the LVCVA dwindle. Not only do we stand to lose out on new events, but we’re less able to protect our current conventions and events from being picked off by cities that are circling us like scavengers.

As long as the LVCVA is in a weakened state, the target on Las Vegas’ back only gets bigger.

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