Nevada Resort Association PAC backs 17 candidates, ‘isn’t going away’

Nevada Resort Association PAC backs 17 candidates, ‘isn’t going away’

Article brief provided by The Nevada Independent
  • Howard Stutz, The Nevada Independent
November 2, 2022 7:21 PM
  • Howard Stutz, The Nevada Independent

Undeterred by the losses of three of their endorsed and financially backed candidates in the primary election in June, the gaming industry’s leading trade group is pressing ahead with its involvement in Nevada’s down-ballot legislative races.

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The Nevada Resort PAC, which has raised more than $2.35 million throughout 2022, gave $155,000 in campaign contributions to 17 Assembly candidates for the primary and general election, according to its third quarter contribution and expenditure report filed with the secretary of state’s office. The third quarter covers the months of July, August and September.

The PAC contributed a maximum of $10,000 to five Republicans and nine Democrats seeking election to the Assembly.

Three candidates backed by the PAC who lost in the primary – two Democrats seeking to knock out incumbents and one Republican – each received $5,000 in contributions. Three non-incumbents who won their primary elections – Republican Burt Gurr and Democrats Angie Taylor and Max Carter – received $5,000 contributions in April and another $5,000 for the general election.

The political action committee had nearly $360,000 left in the bank as of Oct. 15, but R&R Partners CEO Billy Vassiliadis, the resort association’s longtime lobbyist, said much of the leftover money had been donated to other legislative candidates in the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s election.

Those contributions will be listed on the group’s final report, which is due on Jan. 15.

“We covered the candidates that we thought deserved support,” Vassiliadis said. “We said before, this group isn’t going away.”

In announcing the PAC’s formation in January, the Resort Association said its membership of nearly 80 casinos statewide wanted to “recruit, assess, endorse, and elect state legislative candidates in 2022.”

The Strip’s three largest casino operators combined for nearly $1 million of the $2.35 million raised by the political action committee, which didn’t announce any additional donations in its most recent report.

Vassiliadis said the Resort Association “didn’t know exactly what to expect” heading into the election, but followed the process the group laid out in interviewing candidates.

“It wasn’t as intense as what we had expected,” Vassiliadis said. “There were either uncompetitive primaries or there were districts we thought we would need to get involved in where there didn’t appear to be a difficult race.”

With gaming tax revenue increasing as casinos head toward a second straight record-breaking year, Vassiliadis expects a lawmaker might seek an increase in the state’s gaming tax, which is currently at 6.75 percent on the state’s largest casinos.

“I think every session someone has an idea,” Vassiliadis said. “In part, the revenue is so significant coming from (the industry) right now, it’s not really a concern.” He noted that gaming companies are still recovering from steep losses in 2020, and said gaming is heading into “uncertain times.”

From the $2.35 million in contributions, the Resort Association PAC donated more than $1.5 million to another PAC, Nevada Rising, according to the July and October reports. Nevada Rising spent most of the money raised on advertisements or consultants.

More than $300,000 was spent on consultants, including $274,380 paid to Benenson Strategy Group, a Denver-based market research and consultancy firm.

In addition to Gurr, the PAC made $10,000 contributions to Republican Assembly incumbents Melissa Hardy, Gregory Hafen and Heidi Kasama as well as Republican candidate Tiffany Jones.

Democrats supported by the PAC with $10,000 contributions include Assembly incumbents Sandra Jauegui, Danielle Monroe-Moreno, Rochelle Nguyen and Howard Watts, as well as Democratic candidates Shea Backus, Erica Mosca, Taylor and Carter. Assemblyman Steven Yeager received a donation of $10,000 on Feb. 25, though he was unopposed in the June primary.