Nevada Harrah's Sports Arena Initiative (2012)

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The Nevada Harrah's Sports Arena Initiative did not make the November 6, 2012 statewide ballot as an indirect initiated state statute. The proposed initiative would have allowed a 20,000-seat sports arena on the Las Vegas Strip. Specifically the initiative would have imposed a 0.9 cent sales tax in a taxing district near the proposed arena. The revenue would finance bonds to construct the arena.[1]

The legislature had a March 18, 2011 deadline to decide whether or not to enact the measure. Early reports indicated that there was not enough support in the legislature for the measure to be approved, meaning it was likely to appear on the 2012 ballot. The legislature, specifically the state senate, confirmed that sentiment and rejected the measure, sending it to the statewide ballot for a public vote on March 17, 2011.[2][3]

The measure did not make the ballot, however, after the Nevada Supreme Court struck it down.



The following were groups, organizations and individuals who were in support of the measure:



The following were groups, organizations and individuals who are opponents of the measure:


  • According to Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith about the measure: "While that might not make it unprecedented in Nevada, where the politically connected have rarely been forced to play by the established rules, it doesn't make it right. If it were to pass in November, even a two-bit mentalist could predict attorneys would have a field day shooting holes in it at the next level."[4]


2012 measure lawsuits
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By lawsuit type
Ballot text
Campaign contributions
Motivation of sponsors
Petitioner residency
Post-certification removal
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Signature challenges
Initiative process
See also: List of ballot measure lawsuits in 2012

Taxpayers for Protection of Nevada Jobs v. Arena Initiative Committee

Single-subject challenge

On September 21, 2010 District Judge James Todd Russell upheld the proposed initiative petition. Taxpayers for Protection of Nevada Jobs argued that the proposed initiative violated the "single-subject rule" and thus the petition should be declared invalid. However, the judge ruled that the organization's lawyer Scott Scherer did not prove a violation of the "single-subject rule."[5] The case was appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court.

Challenge to invalidate signatures

On December 15, 2010 the Taxpayers for the Protection of Nevada Jobs filed a lawsuit in the First Judicial District Court alleging that there had been fraud and misconduct in the gathering of petition signatures. Specifically, the lawsuit aimed to invalidate the collected signatures.[6]

The lawsuit argued that the petition circulation process was tainted by fraudulent behavior by engaging in the use of false advertisements. For example, the lawsuit pointed to the use of pervasive lies about the details of the initiative (including the location of the proposed arena) and false statements about who circulated the petitions and obtained the signatures.[6]

On February 3, 2011, District Court Judge Todd Russell declined to block the measure from being presented to the opening of Legislature, as requested by the lawsuit. The lawsuit sought to block the measure from legislative review until March when the judge rules whether or not fraudulent signatures appeared on the petition. Opponents argued that the initiative effort will not have obtained enough signatures if the judge confirms and tosses out the alleged fraudulent signatures.

Russell suggested there were enough signatures for the measure to be placed on the ballot on April 7, 2011. On that day, Russell ordered attorneys to submit closing briefs, and stated he would soon rule on whether or not any "minor errors" or other circumstances invalidated the petition and the initiative's ballot status. He also claimed there were "interesting issues" in the case.[7]

Judge Todd Russell ruled on May 9, 2011 that the initiative did indeed gather enough signatures to advance to the ballot. According to the ruling Russell stated that the opponents who filed the lawsuit double counted invalid signatures. He also tossed the argument by the plaintiffs that the county clerks allegedly inflated signatures counts. According to reports, the plaintiffs, Taxpayers for the Protection of Nevada Jobs, had the option to appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court, which the group was considering. As expected, the appeal was filed with the state high court during the week of May 16, 2011.[8][9]

Supreme Court consolidates cases

On May 20, 2011, the Nevada Supreme Court consolidated the two appeals into a single case. The order consolidating the cases can be found here.

Supreme Court considers appeal

During an opening brief on July 18, 2011 in the state high court, Taxpayers for the Protection of Nevada argued: “During the signature-gathering process, petition circulators used fraudulent means to obtain signatures, including providing false and misleading information about the location and the initiative benefits and detriments to induce people to sign the petition."[10]

  • Documents in the appeal can be found here.

On March 7, 2012, the Nevada Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments from both sides of the measure. Justices questioned whether or not the initiative violated the court's ruling in 2011 that ruled that the state constitution prohibited local laws that supersede general state law.[11]

  • Audio of the oral arguments can be found here.


On June 20, 2012, the Nevada Supreme Court ordered that the wording of the initiative had to be changed in order for it to appear on the November ballot. The measure's impacts, according to reports, would not be changed and the initiative does not have to be circulated again, however. According to the 7-0 ruling, "Because it fails to reveal the ramifications to the competing arena proposals and fails to inform voters of the precise location of the proposed arena, we conclude the initiative's description of effect is deceptive and materially misleading."[12]

Eventual removal

Another ruling from the Nevada Supreme Court, after the proposal was rewritten, struck the measure from the ballot after another review of the measure. The state supreme court ruling stated that the initiative's petitions were invalid because they didn’t say where the arena would be built.[13]

Path to the ballot

See also: Nevada signature requirements

According to reports, supporters were required to collect 97,002 valid signatures to send it to the legislature. If the legislature failed to act on the measure it would be placed on the 2012 ballot.

More than 200,000 were filed with state officials on November 8, 2010.[14] According to the Nevada Secretary of State's office, a total of 221,874 signatures were filed. As of November 16, 2010 the signatures are being returned to the state's counties for verification that 5 percent of the submitted signatures were registered voters. If approved, the measure will be submitted to the legislature for consideration.[15]

In early December 2010 the Nevada Secretary of State verified that the measure had sufficient signatures to be referred to the legislature for consideration.[16][17]

Signatures were required in each of Nevada’s three congressional districts. The breakdown, according to the secretary of state's office, was as follows:[15][16]

District # of required signatures # of filed signatures # of verified signatures
District 1 24,944 53,199 45,332
District 2 34,479 70,227 49,861
District 3 37,561 88,488 62,585

Legislative action

Since the measure is an initiated state statute, the Nevada Legislature must review the proposal in session. According to reports, its ballot access is dependent on what legislature decides to do with the initiative. If passed in its current form by the legislature, according to Governor of Nevada Brian Sandoval, he would veto it. Sandoval commented in late January 2011 that he would veto the initiative because it contains a tax. However, it should be noted that Sandoval stated that "lots of things" could happen to the proposal. If the legislature approves the measure and it is signed by the governor, it would automatically become a law. If the measure is rejected by the legislature, approved but vetoed by the governor, or if legislature does not override the governor's veto, then it would get sent to the ballot for the voters to decide.[18]

On March 17, 2011 the state Senate rejected the measure, sending it to the statewide ballot for a public vote.[2]

Proposed bill

Senate Bill 495 was introduced on March 28, 2011 as a response to the certified sports arena ballot measure. The proposal would prohibit a special tax district in the state. Also, the bill would prohibit the creation of an area in which the sales tax was higher than other parts of the county. The measure was introduced by the Senate Revenue Committee, and according to State Senator Sheila Leslie, chairwoman of the committee, if approved by the Legislature, the bill would be placed on the 2012 ballot as a competing measure to the sports arena initiative. Leslie also stated that the proposal that received the most votes in the 2012 general election would win. However, if neither measure receives 50 percent of the vote, both would be considered rejected by voters.[19]

Alternate proposals

A bill proposed in 2011 state legislative session was heard on June 2, 2011 that would divert tax money into financing for the potential sports stadium.[20]

Senate Bill 501 allows the Clark County Commission to choose one of three options to help finance a 35,000-seat stadium, which is bigger than the ballot initiative's stadium request.

More details include:

  • Three potential types of facility districts in Clark County, which would be the choice of the county commission.
  • Each district would use a revenue combination generated from sales, live entertainment and taxes to fund the stadium.
  • Implementation of a $1,000 assessment on parking spaces within 3,000 feet of the project.



The following is a timeline of events relating to the measure:

Event Date Developments
Lawsuit ruling Sept. 21, 2010 District Judge James Todd Russell upheld the proposed initiative petition, therefore declaring it valid.
Signatures filed Nov. 8, 2010 According to the Nevada Secretary of State's office, a total of 221,874 petition signatures were filed.
Signatures verified Dec. 2010 Nevada Secretary of State verified that the measure had sufficient signatures.
2nd lawsuit filed Dec. 15, 2010 Lawsuit filed alleging that there had been fraud in the gathering of petition signatures.
Block declined Feb. 3, 2011 District Court Judge declined to block the measure from being presented immediately to Legislature, but no ruling.
Rejection Mar. 17, 2011 State Senate rejected measure, sending it to the statewide ballot for a public vote.
Competing measure Mar. 28, 2011 Senate Bill 495 was introduced as a response to the sports arena ballot measure.

See also

Suggest a link


Additional reading


  1. Las Vegas Sun,"Judge lets Harrah’s proceed with petition to build sports arena," September 21, 2010
  2. 2.0 2.1 Associated Press,"Nevada Senate rejects Vegas arena initiative," March 17, 2011
  3. Las Vegas Sun, "Caesars Entertainment will take arena proposal to the people," March 10, 2011
  4. Las Vegas Review-Journal, "Judges should leave flawed arena petition off November ballot," July 3, 2012
  5. Las Vegas Review-Journal,"Judge refuses to reject arena petition," September 22, 2010
  6. 6.0 6.1 Arena Digest,"Casinos file suit to block new Vegas arena," December 20, 2010
  7. Las Vegas Sun, "Judge suggests arena petition has enough signatures," April 7, 2011
  8. Las Vegas Sun, "Caesars Entertainment wins legal battle over proposed Strip arena," May 9, 2011
  9. Las Vegas Sun, "Opponents of Las Vegas Strip arena proposal file appeal," May 17, 2011
  10. Las Vegas Sun, "Court is urged to block Caesars’ arena initiative," July 18, 2011
  11. Nevada Appeal, "Nevada court takes up Las Vegas arena ballot measure," March 7, 2012
  12. Las Vegas Review-Journal, "Justices order changes in Strip arena tax measure," June 20, 2012
  13., "Nevada Supreme Court strikes Vegas arena measure," August 2, 2012
  14. Associated Press,"NV sports arena backers turn in signatures," November 8, 2010 (dead link)
  15. 15.0 15.1 Las Vegas Sun,"Petition supporting Strip arena advances with 221,874 signatures," November 16, 2010
  16. 16.0 16.1 Las Vegas Sun,"Las Vegas Strip arena initiative advances," December 6, 2010
  17.,"Statewide Support for Las Vegas Arena Plan Debated," December 9, 2010 (dead link)
  18. Las Vegas Sun, "Sandoval says he’d veto Las Vegas Strip arena proposal in current form," January 18, 2011
  19. Las Vegas Sun, "Rival bill would create hurdle for proposed Las Vegas Strip arena," March 29, 2011
  20. Las Vegas Review-Journal, "Lawmakers hear plan to finance Las Vegas stadium, other projects," June 3, 2011