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October 4, 2015

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Station Casinos loses $15 million appeal in sales tax case of comped meals


Jenna Kohler

Feast Buffet inside Palace Station

The Nevada Tax Commission has refused to refund more than $15.3 million to Station Casinos that it paid in sales taxes on free meals it gave players and employees.

This is another chapter in the fight between the casino industry and the state Department of Taxation, with the case already in District Court in Las Vegas.

Station attorney John Bartlett said the next stop is a court hearing Oct. 17. He noted Boyd Gaming and Caesars Entertainment have also filed suit to reclaim millions of dollars in sales and use tax.

Chris Nielsen, director of the Taxation Department, said Station wanted the $15.3 million refund plus interest, which would probably double the amount.

The company, which has 18 properties in Southern Nevada, paid the tax for a number of years. The commission did vote to refund an estimated $700,000 in sales and use tax on free meals on nongaming activities such as 2 for 1 value and promotional activities.

Bartlett argued there were no retail sales on the free meals to the players and employees so no tax should be collected against them.

He said the department adopted a "strange change of theory" in imposing the tax on employee meals. There is no union contract that bargains for these meals, said Bartlett.

Blake Doerr of the state attorney general's office argued the meals to the players and employees were all taxable.

But Bartlett argued the taxes collected over an eight-year period should be refunded.

The commission earlier this year refused to refund $31 million to Caesars and $21 million to Boyd Gaming.

The Nevada Taxpayers Association predicted last year the dispute will be settled by the Nevada Supreme Court, with the refund growing to $200 million.

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