Assembly Majority Leader Paul Anderson predicted Friday that if a special legislative session is called, lawmakers would approve public financing of the domed stadium proposed to bring the NFL to Southern Nevada.
The Las Vegas Republican and chief party vote counter said he generally supports the project and believes there would be a "positive outcome" if the proposal ends up before lawmakers in a special session.
His comments followed Thursday's unanimous vote of the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee to approve draft legislative language that would raise the room tax in Las Vegas to help pay for a $1.9 billion stadium. If approved by state lawmakers, the stadium will become home to the NFL’s Raiders and the UNLV football team.
"I think there are benefits across the board when it comes to having the stadium, having our tax dollars leveraged for the public benefit," Anderson said on KNPR’s State of Nevada.
But he pointed out that like most deals of this type, lawmakers will probably modify and tweak it from its original form.
Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak, who serves on the infrastructure committee, told KNPR's State of Nevada that he is confident that the committee did a "incredible job of vetting" the proposal.
He also said he was "proud" to support the deal.
Advocates still need to get OKs from the governor, the Legislature and three-fourths of NFL owners before construction begins — at a site that has yet to be determined. But the committee’s approval clears a major hurdle for a project that was first proposed just eight months ago.
Casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson, whose Las Vegas Sands Corp. has been a driver behind the project, has pledged $650 million toward the stadium. The Raiders have agreed to contribute $500 million.
Adelson's involvement in the project has many people asking why he can't pay for it himself.
"He's worth $30 billion," said political analyst and KNPR contributor Jon Ralston. "He's talked about this being a philanthropic, legacy driving effort for him. Why shouldn't he pay for the entire stadium?"
Sisolak said it had to be public-private partnership or it wasn't going to happen, and he made it clear that the stadium was not going to belong to Adelson.
"No one is writing a check to Sheldon Adelson," he said, "The stadium is not going to be owned by Mr. Adelson. The land is not going to be owned by Mr. Adelson. It's going to be owned by the stadium authority, which at the end of the lease reverts back to the government."
Ralston agreed the stadium is not going to be owned by Las Vegas Sands Corp. or Adelson, but he said there is more to it.
"The argument that they had to do this or they were going to lose Sheldon Adelson's money is not an insignificant argument in that, that is what they said," Ralston pointed out, "They went up to a table and said, 'Our way or the highway.'"
Ralston said the recommending committee had to agree to the terms and make the best deal it could for taxpayers because it couldn't scuttle the deal.
Supporters of the stadium insist it will create thousands of jobs, draw more tourists and keep Las Vegas a top global destination.
"The future success of our economy here in Las Vegas, whether you are in leisure and hospitality or not, is really dependent on our region remaining globally competitive," said Kristin McMillan, CEO of the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce.
Several stadium skeptics have pointed out that other stadiums in other cities have not provided the economic benefits that were promised by developers and team owners.
The counter argument from supporters has always been: Las Vegas is unique. Unlike other cities, people already travel here to be entertained. This stadium, they argue, is an additional reason for people to come here.
Committee Chairman Steve Hill said having an NFL team will “bring the community together. We're going to have people wearing Raiders jerseys and high-fiving each other.”
From Desert Companion: Sudden Death: How to rush a stadium deal
From John L. Smith: Adelson's Pussycat Legislature
Steve Sisolak, Clark County commissioner; Paul Anderson, Assembly majority leader; Kristin McMillan, Las Vegas Metro Chamber CEO; John Knott, real estate executive; Jon Ralston, political commentator