Free NASCAR tickets not reported by legislators
CARSON CITY (AP) – Las Vegas Motor Speedway owner Bruton Smith opens his private suite at the racetrack each March to legislators and other elected officials for a weekend of NASCAR racing, free food and beverages.
For comparable amenities, a private citizen would pay $710 for this year’s three-day race weekend, according to the speedway’s Web site.
Lawmakers at last year’s event didn’t list the gift on their financial disclosure statements Jan. 15. State law requires legislators and other elected officials to list on these statements all gifts worth more than $200, but the speedway says it doesn’t place a value on the free tickets.
“It’s a huge draw for Nevada,” Assembly Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick, R-Gardnerville, said of the NASCAR event. “It puts millions in our economy. Gov. (Kenny) Guinn goes. Every legislator gets invited. I have gone, and I fully intend to go again.”
Added Sen. Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, a racing fan: “I have seen legislators there, North Las Vegas city councilmen, Las Vegas city councilmen. I’d be surprised if everyone wasn’t invited. When you are the invited guest of the owner, it puts you in another world.”
Heller and Carlton acknowledge attending the 2005 race. Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, said he was invited by the speedway but instead went as a guest of a business friend.
Assemblyman Scott Sibley, R-Henderson, got an invitation but could not make the event. He did attend the speedway’s truck race on a pass last September, which he said had a value of about $100. Sibley said legislators receive tickets to all racing events at the speedway.
The revelation that legislators didn’t report the track passes follows the recent disclosure that 10 legislators accepted tickets priced in the $400 range to a Rolling Stones concert. Four legislators also took $300 tickets to a concert given by Puerto Rican singer Luis Miguel.
Most legislators reported the receipt of the Stones’ tickets from Ameriquest, a national mortgage lending company that last month agreed to pay $325 million to home buyers who were charged excessive interest rates.
Track owner Smith declined comment Tuesday, saying he didn’t have enough information on the matter.
The Legislature passed a law during the 2005 session that will exempt the speedway from the 5 percent live entertainment tax if in the future it secures a second annual NASCAR Cup race.
The primary sponsor of the bill was Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, who said she declined tickets to the race.
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