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Casino mogul Steve Wynn makes rare trip to Carson City to meet with lawmakers

Updated Wednesday, May 1, 2013 | 4:27 p.m.

Wynn Talks With Media

Steve Wynn meets with the media in a villa at Wynn Las Vegas on Wednesday, April 27, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Making a rare trip to Carson City today, casino billionaire Steve Wynn met with Republican and Democratic legislative leaders to lobby his case for a gentle approach to taxing the gaming industry, arguing it is still struggling to come out of recession at a time casinos are proliferating in other jurisdictions.

Wynn's meeting comes as Democrats prepare to release details of a tax plan that may include changes to the way the industry is taxed on its live entertainment venues and could eliminate property tax breaks it now enjoys.

Emerging from a small corner room inside the legislative building, Wynn said his job is to help give lawmakers a "general understanding" of the state of the industry.

"Right now, the industry has a real serious health problem," Wynn told reporters in a brief gaggle after his meeting with Democrats.

He argued the gaming industry's recovery from the economic recession is endangered by the growth of casinos in other jurisdictions and said lawmakers must consider how to keep it healthy going forward.

Wynn met with Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick and Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis individually for more than 20 minutes. Neither Democratic leader had a comment directly after the meeting.

Democrats have generally been at odds with Wynn, who has contributed heavily to Republican campaigns and has been an outspoken critic of taxes.

Kirkpatrick is studying ways to reform the live entertainment tax and is looking for tax breaks to eliminate in an effort to fix the state's tax system and generate more revenue for education and other state services.

After his meeting with Democrats, Wynn walked down the hall to meet with Republican Minority Leader Michael Roberson and five other Senate Republicans who have pitched a mining tax increase.

Wynn also met with Gov. Brian Sandoval earlier in the afternoon. Sandoval's spokeswoman Mary-Sarah Kinner had no comment on what they discussed.

Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki also had a brief meeting with Wynn, who could be seen standing and speaking animatedly at Krolicki.

Krolicki had no comment after the meeting, but a staff member said the pair were discussing "what Democrats" want to do with taxes.

A Democrat familiar with the meeting with Denis would only describe the meeting as "productive."

In 1989, when lawmakers were debating a mining tax increase, Wynn came out strongly in favor of taking the industry's tax protections out of the constitution. But lawmakers who met with Wynn today said mining "didn't really" come up.

Sen. Mark Hutchison said Wynn spoke of the gaming industry's struggles and cautioned lawmakers against turning to casinos to provide more state funding.

"He said we need find a way to make sure education is funded in a way that doesn't include going back to gaming," he said.

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