Monday, May 9, 2011 | 5:17 p.m.
CARSON CITY – A district court judge has ruled that Caesars Entertainment can go forward with its plan to try to convince Nevada voters to back a $500 million, 27,000-seat sports and entertainment arena on the Las Vegas Strip.
District Judge Todd Russell ruled Monday that Caesars Entertainment has collected enough valid signatures on its initiative petition to put the measure on the 2012 ballot.
MGM Resorts International filed suit in December, claiming there were not enough valid signatures to qualify the issue for the ballot.
The suit claimed there was false advertising, misrepresentation of the petition during circulation and various errors in counting and verification by county clerks.
Russell said the opponents double counted the invalid signatures and he rejected the argument that county clerks inflated their counts. In addition, Russell said the opposition group, Taxpayers for the Protection of Nevada Jobs, didn't follow the legal procedure in verifying signatures.
The initiative petition calls for a 9/10-cent increase in the sales tax in a special district on the Strip.
Scott Scherer, attorney for the opponents, said he hasn't discussed with MGM the possibility of an appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court.
Caesars collected 221,874 signatures on its petition and only 97,002 were needed to qualify the initiative petition for the election ballot. There were enough signatures to qualify the petition, he said.
The petition was forwarded by Secretary of State Ross Miller to the Nevada Legislature, which rejected it. That action puts it on the ballot. The Legislature wrote a competing plan to ban creation of a special district to impose a sales tax in an area that's higher than the rest of the county. That bill, Senate Bill 495, is in the Assembly Taxation Committee.
If that makes it on the ballot, the one that gathers the most votes will prevail.
In the meantime, there have been proposals floated for an arena in downtown Las Vegas, at UNLV and by Texas entrepreneur Chris Milan for an arena behind the Mandalay Bay west of Interstate 15.