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Bill that could bring state millions from casinos survives bill deadline

By ThisIsReno

By Andrew Doughman, Nevada News Bureau: Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, nudged his bill out of committee today, meaning the state could secure anywhere from $20 to $50 million from the casino industry.

Under Assembly Bill 219, if you lose or do not redeem a paper voucher printed from a slot machine, the state would sweep that money into its coffers as unclaimed property. Right now, casinos pay taxes on that money and count the remainder as revenue.

The casino industry won one concession already, and Horne said he is still working with representatives to ease the bill’s passage on the Assembly floor. Under Horne’s amendment, the casino industry would keep 25 percent of unclaimed winnings while 75 percent of those winnings would transfer to the state.

Casinos would still pay taxes on the 25 percent they keep.

“We’re still negotiationg parts of this bill,” Horne said. “I’ve agreed to, while moving it out today, it won’t move out of our house until we make some other final amendments to the bill.”

Pete Ernaut, lobbyist for the Nevada Resort Association, said that he would like to see Nevada copy a similar law in New Jersey.

In New Jersey, 75 percent of unredeemed winnings revert to the casinos and 25 percent go to the state.

“I said I don’t like that, you have to flip it,” Horne said.

Given their opposing positions, Ernaut hinted that he would like a 50-50 split.

Horne, however, said he is “doubtful” that he would agree to that.

Ernaut intends to press the point.

“I imagine it’ll end up somewhere between those two points,” he said.

During today’s hearing, Horne also said that Nevada’s Gaming Commission may handle the transfer of money to the state. This would break the precedent that all unclaimed property reverts to the Treasurer’s office.

Horne’s argument at the bill’s first hearing in March was that the person owns the voucher rather than the casino. Additionally, he said it would be impossible to track down the owner of the voucher. So that money should revert to the state as unclaimed property.

Ernaut had argued that the state would have to try to match a voucher to a person.

“We also would contend that this does not become the property of the player until it is redeemed,” Ernaut said.

This would negate Horne’s argument that the voucher becomes a player’s property – not the casino’s – when the slot machine spits out a ticket.

But Horne dismissed Ernaut’s arguments.

“The opposition, they would like this to be a very complicated issue,” Horne said. “In the end, this is a simple case on unclaimed property and who should get it. All the other stuff just muddies the waters and tries to make it more complicated than it actually is.”

Progressive groups have voiced support for the plan since any new revenue the Legislature finds can help negate cuts in the governor’s proposed general fund budget.

Horne is chairman of the Assembly Judiciary committee, which heard the bill and passed it. It now moves to the Assembly floor for a vote.