A request for tax increment financing by the hotel’s developers was rejected by Las Vegas City Council members during a November redevelopment agency meeting. The Asian-focused boutique casino is being built at Sahara Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. This type of public financing provides incentives for developments by way of future property tax revenue. To defray the cost of items such as traffic signals, water lines, flood control improvements, and sidewalks, rebates are granted by the Las Vegas Redevelopment Agency for residential, retail, and hotel projects within the city’s redevelopment areas.
In November, city officials said that the request for direct financing by the Lucky Drago was the first in more than 20 years. The proposal, which was denied in a 6-1 vote by the City Council, raises a broader question for some of whether or not casinos should be able to benefit from such subsidies. David Jacoby, Lucky Dragon chief operating officer, said, “Had we gotten approval in November in front of the council at that time, we would have been approved to discuss a framework to allow TIF financing to be accepted for all casinos throughout our city. Which, frankly, I think, would be a good thing,” according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Before the vote, developers told city officials that the project had a $25 million funding gap, because funds weren’t available through the federal EB-5 program, which through job creation and investments by foreign investors aims to stimulate the U.S. economy.
The intent of the request by the Lucky Dragon was to develop a framework to allow tax increment financing to benefit casinos in Las Vegas in general, according to Jacoby. Had that happened, the developers would have been able to work on a more specific proposal with the city staff. But the project, which is backed by gaming executive William Weidner, former Las Vegas Sands Corp executive, and real estate developer Andrew Fonfa, isn’t being held up by the agency’s decision. Jacoby said that the decision had no effect on the development schedule and, “We didn’t change around the project for it; it didn’t speed up or slow down the project.”
Bob Coffin, the only city councilman to vote in favor of the Lucky Dragon request last year, said that if a particular project benefits the neighborhood around it, tax increment financing should be available to casinos. Coffin said, “After all, it’s a legal business, it’s not something you should discriminate against. … I don’t see any reason to exclude a particular type of business.”
While Jacoby declined to give a specific date for the Luck Dragon’s opening, he did say its debut is planned for the fourth quarter of 2016. In addition to 27,500 square-foot gaming area’s slot machines and table games, the Lucky Dragon will have an indoor/outdoor tea garden, pool, spa, 204 hotel rooms, a 1¼-ton glass dragon sculpture, and three bar/lounges.