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CIVIL WAR of the Silver State | P4 | South lost opportunity from Caesars

Reported by: Reed Cowan
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Updated: 2/21/2014 9:10 pm
LAS VEGAS (KSNV -- It was the $30 million deal that blew up – a significant financial contribution to UNLV from the Caesars Foundation that would have led to the construction of a new hotel college on the university campus.

The current William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration is outdated by academic standards, and the foundation’s single caveat for the university to receive the money -- Nevada legislators needed to match that amount with a one-time expenditure.

That failed to make its way through the 2009 session of the Nevada Legislature, and frustrated Caesars Entertainment executives pulled the money off the table.

“It was just a huge, lost opportunity … not just for Southern Nevada but for the state of Nevada,” said former Las Vegas Mayor Jan Jones Blackhurst, Caesars’ top political lobbyist and one-time candidate for governor. “The most critical school in the most critical industry … and the state would not give its share of resources to complete this structure.”

Jones said the failure to match the lucrative contribution was the result of a decade-long split in funding priorities between lawmakers in the state’s southern and northern regions.

“I think it was driven largely by northern legislators. They just didn’t want to give the money,” she said. “Everybody was fighting over a small pool of discretionary capital, and they just didn’t want to give it to UNLV.”

Where did the money go? According to a memo obtained by News 3, the University of Nevada, Reno, saw multiple buildings spring up in the ensuing months – a $34.7 million Health Science Center and a $72 million Math and Science Center, 70 percent of which were paid for with state dollars. A Center for Molecular Medicine at UNR also was partially financed by state dollars.

Meantime, UNLV’s Hotel College has seen its reputation slip among public colleges and universities throughout the United States, with the state of Florida making a major investment in the construction of a state-of-the-art building for the hotel college at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

“With the hospitality school not investing, we squandered an opportunity, maybe where instead of being the leading hospitality school we become the third or fourth -- or just a good school,” Jones said.


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