Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2000 | 10:43 a.m.
A settlement is near on a series of lawsuits filed against the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority by owners of the Venetian hotel-casino.
LVCVA President Manny Cortez said Monday a draft settlement is in the hands of hotel executives.
But a spokesman for the Venetian said Monday he was unaware of any settlement offer.
According to Cortez, the proposed settlement addresses issues raised in three suits filed in 1999 and earlier this year in connection with the LVCVA's construction of a 1.3 million-square-foot, $150 million expansion to the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Construction of the addition is under way after an April groundbreaking. LVCVA officials hope the facility will be ready a year from now, prior to the opening of the 2002 Winter Consumer Electronics Show.
In separate actions, Las Vegas Sands Inc., owners of the Venetian, sued the LVCVA over procedures taken to build the addition. The resort owners said the LVCVA violated the state's open-meeting law when it approved the financing of the addition. Las Vegas Sands owner Sheldon Adelson maintains the publicly funded LVCVA unfairly competes with his privately owned convention center.
It also questioned the LVCVA's authority to issue bonds to pay for the expansion without a public vote.
Those cases were heard in Clark County District Court in October 1999 by Judge James Mahan, who ultimately ruled in favor of the LVCVA.
Meanwhile, the LVCVA's board of directors authorized Cortez to consider legal action to recover costs that resulted from the delay in construction, estimated at more than $10 million. The Venetian responded by filing a federal civil rights suit against Cortez and the board, claiming that the LVCVA violated resort executives' First Amendment rights to free speech with their threats of legal action.
That case was heard in U.S. District Court by Judge Philip Pro, who rejected the Venetian's claims in May.
Appeals on both cases were consolidated and brought before the Nevada Supreme Court. Cortez said consideration of settlement issues is a routine part of the process.
Cortez said the LVCVA has been released from a potential suit alleging the addition's construction would violate the federal Clean Air Act. An environmental group threatened the suit, but the LVCVA believed Venetian management was behind the effort.
"We haven't formally signed a settlement agreement, but our legal counsel has been meeting with theirs," Cortez said. "This would take care of all the pending litigation."
Cortez said the settlement would absolve the LVCVA from the allegations and in turn the public-private marketing agency assured the Venetian that it would work to bring more conventions and trade shows to all Las Vegas properties. Cortez said the LVCVA also promised to update its master plan.
Both the master plan update and efforts to deliver more shows to Las Vegas already were on the LVCVA's agenda. The new addition currently under construction, a two-story facility that will span Desert Inn Road, is the last portion of an existing master plan.
Cortez said the next LVCVA master plan revision is expected to address updates for the agency's Cashman Center facilities near downtown Las Vegas.
Cortez said the LVCVA's efforts to attract new shows to Las Vegas is part of its ongoing mission and that the agency works to attract events that would benefit the entire city and not individual properties.
The Venetian ownership has had its own successes in drawing new shows to Las Vegas. One of the biggest: next month's Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association Super Show, the nation's largest sporting goods trade show. The event was lured from Atlanta and is scheduled at the Sands Expo Center and the Venetian Jan. 21-24.
About 80,000 people are expected to attend the show, the first in a three-year commitment organizers have made to Las Vegas.