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April 17, 2014

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Gaming execs credit stimulus with saving Nevada jobs

Three companies respond to recent comments from Wynn, Murren

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Justin M. Bowen

Gaming executives on Thursday credited the federal stimulus package with saving jobs in Las Vegas in a response to recent comments from Steve Wynn and MGM Mirage’s Jim Murren.

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  • Harrah's, Station Casinos and Hilton execs on Nevada's economy
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Steve Wynn on Fox News

Jim Murren on Fox News

Despite Nevada’s tough economic climate and growing jobless rate, casino executives today said they are seeing the benefits of federal stimulus dollars flowing to Las Vegas.

In the wake of national media appearances by two high-profile Las Vegas casino executives, Harrah’s Entertainment, Station Casinos and Hilton International hosted a teleconference Thursday to chime in on the Obama administration and the effects of the federal stimulus on the industry.

Wynn Resorts executive Steve Wynn, who has been critical of the Obama administration for months, voiced his opinion again during a roundtable discussion on Fox News Channel on Oct. 10.

Then Tuesday, MGM Mirage Chief Executive Jim Murren spoke with Fox News. He was less critical of the president but said Obama needs more focus on job creation.

Harrah’s Entertainment Senior Vice President Jan Jones said today’s teleconference wasn’t just a response to Wynn and Murren, but a reaction to those who question the need for the federal stimulus and its role in protecting jobs.

“State government in Nevada would not be operating if it weren’t for the money that came into the state budget from the stimulus,” Jones said. “The number of jobs that have been protected because the government can still operate, that is a direct result of the stimulus.”

Aside from the money Nevada received from the stimulus, the cancellation of indebtedness provision and Travel Promotion Act were important additions that helped the gaming industry, Jones said. She credited Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid with both.

The cancellation of indebtedness provision allows companies to restructure their debt and delays tax payments tied to capital gains.

“For Harrah’s Entertainment, that allowed us to protect 31,000 jobs in Nevada alone. This piece of legislation allowed Harrah’s to work to restructure to make sure we kept our employees employed,” said Jones, a former Las Vegas mayor and current member of the governor's Spending and Government Efficiency Commission.

Station Casinos Chief Development Officer Scott Neilson said his company hasn’t been able to take part in the debt cancellation provision since Station is currently in bankruptcy proceedings, but said the legislation will allow the company increased flexibility as it restructures.

“Even though a lot of the companies in the Nevada economy trying to work through this [bankruptcy] process right now might not have been able to take advantage of this provision yet, I think that they will and I think you’ll see a lot of companies benefit greatly,” he said.

Chris Najbicz, vice president of West Coast operations for Hilton Hotels, said he stands by Harrah’s and Station Casinos on the stimulus.

“We really do endorse the importance of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in saving a multitude of jobs throughout the state of Nevada and believe it’s been very helpful to the Las Vegas business community in general,” Najbicz said.

Jones said some Nevadans haven’t made the connection between the stimulus and job creation in the state. The state’s unemployment rate last month stood at 13.3 percent.

“When we have been so positively impacted, I felt it was wrong for it to be continually mischaracterized,” Jones said of the stimulus. “I think sometimes people forget what the reality is.”

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