Nevada Court Strikes Vegas Arena Measure

Nevadans won’t be voting on a special taxing district to build a sports arena on the Las Vegas Strip after the state Supreme Court reversed itself and struck the measure from the November ballot.

Justices, in a ruling issued late Wednesday, said a summary of the initiative was misleading and deceptive, and the signatures gathered to place it on the ballot were therefore invalid.

The Arena Initiative Committee measure was backed by Caesars Entertainment. It proposed funding an arena on land donated by Caesars with a nearly 1 percent sales tax increase within a three-mile area.

The measure was opposed by Taxpayers for the Protection of Nevada Jobs, a group that includes MGM Resorts International and Boyd Gaming Corp. The casino companies fear a Caesars arena would take business from their own venues.

The Caesars petition drive began after the Clark County Commission solicited information on building a venue to attract professional sports teams in 2010. Four developers made pitches for sites around the Las Vegas Valley, including the Caesars site, but the board voted to take no action.

After the Caesars petition was certified by the secretary of state’s office, it went to the Nevada Legislature, which refused to pass it, seemingly sending it to voters this fall. Lawmakers instead approved a competing ballot measure that would prohibit different sales tax rates in a county _ and effectively kill the Caesars proposal.

In the meantime, Taxpayers for the Protection of Nevada Jobs sued over the Caesars initiative, arguing, among other things, that the “description of effect” _ the required, 200-word summary that appears on both the petitions and the ballot _ failed to inform voters that it would eliminate any competing southern Nevada arena proposals.

The high court agreed.

“Statewide voters would assume that the other proposed arenas would qualify under this initiative,” the ruling said. “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 that the initiative’s description of effect is deceptive and materially misleading.”

Justices also said a lower court erred when it refused to invalidate the initiative, and reversed its own previous ruling in July that concluded the description was defective but the measure itself could remain on the ballot if the language was amended.

On Wednesday, the court determined the faulty language invalidated all signatures collected.

In a separate ruling, the court also said the competing ballot question passed by the 2011 Legislature and signed by Gov. Brian Sandoval was moot. Justices noted that bill contained a provision that if the Caesars proposal was struck from the ballot, the Legislature’s counter measure also was void.