NV Lawmakers: Lift Agency Resort, Casino Meeting Bans
After an embarrassing scandal in 2010, many federal agencies imposed bans on holding conferences at resorts and casinos. Federal lawmakers from Nevada—which was uniquely affected by the restrictions—are pushing legislation to lift them.
Meetings and conferences hosted by federal agencies could make a Las Vegas comeback if legislation introduced by a group of House members from Nevada passes.
The bipartisan bill, introduced by Republican Reps. Mark Amodei and Joe Heck and their Democratic colleagues Dina Titus and Steven Horsford, seeks to lift the ban imposed on federal agencies that bars them from holding meetings or conferences at resorts and casinos following an embarrassing scandal involving the General Services Administration in 2010.
Revelations regarding GSA spending more than $800,000 on a training conference in Las Vegas led to the termination or resignation of agency officials and tighter government restrictions on travel and conference spending.
According to the Nevada lawmakers, the American Hotel and Lodging Association reported that a number of agencies “implemented formal limits on federal government travel to resorts,” including the GSA, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Justice, among others. The Department of Defense is also prohibited from holding meetings or conferences in venues where gambling is permitted.
“These prohibitions emphasize optics over real fiscal restraint, because they have been implemented without concern for whether the banned resorts and casinos present a better value for taxpayers,” Amodei said in a joint statement, arguing that the venues often may be the best option for West Coast offices.
Nevada’s House delegation claims that resorts in the state and other well-known tourism destinations experienced a wave of cancellations after the GSA scandal and that meetings were moved to different locations to avoid the “stigma associated with the ‘resort’ or ‘casino’ name.”
Heck added that “the city of Las Vegas was unfairly targeted” as the cause of wasteful spending, even though its high competition for business and numerous venues may make it cheaper for agencies to rent rooms and conference space there.
“Resort cities like Las Vegas are not the problem here,” Heck said. “Irresponsible federal workers are.”