Harrah’s Lake Tahoe Exceeds Expectations

I had business at the state legislature in Carson City this week. I logged into my Total Rewards account while looking for rooms and discovered free nights at Harvey’s and Harrah’s at Tahoe, which is actually in what is called Stateline, NV. The west side of both properties is the California state line.

The free nights still required me to pay the resort fee as my Total Rewards tier is Gold. That $20 per night plus tax was well worth it.

It was definitely offseason. The town was dead. Vast expanses of tables were closed and there were few people in the streets or playing slots. It is a slow time before summer tourist season but after the ski resorts closed for the year. I guess that explains why I qualified for free nights as I doubt any play I have given Caesars properties justified it.

The room was extremely clean. Housekeeping gets five stars. The amenities for the room were in perfect condition. The bed was comfortable. The room came with a separate seating area and an office desk with a comfortable chair. The room was about 50 percent bigger than an average hotel room but is the norm for Harrah’s Tahoe.

One unique feature of the room is that it has two bathrooms. One had a tub with a shower and the other was just a shower stall. The stall’s shower head was on the far right of the shower and didn’t seem to work well from that position. It was pulled out of the wall a bit, perhaps from people trying to figure out how to center it. I didn’t use it for that reason, but will admit my inability to figure out how to make it work could purely be human error.

Every person I talked to that works for the casino was great. The drink service had perfect timing and was friendly. The slot attendants were on the ball when called. I played Ultimate Texas Hold’em for a few hours and had a new dealer about every 20 minutes. Each did a great job with game speed and accuracy. All were friendly, but one really stood out. I wish I could recall her name to give special credit there.

The food court was average at best. It had a Fatburger, as well as independent pizza and Asian outlets. I stayed with Fatburger. The other options didn’t appeal to me. I also ate a few meals at the oyster bar at Hard Rock Casino.  While I call the Harrah’s Tahoe food court average, the other three casinos in town offer nothing comparable.

In all, the casual food options in Stateline are just poor. Maybe people prefer higher end dining in the resort town. I didn’t try any of them as I was alone and didn’t feel like doing that by myself.

One strange feature is the buffet’s location. It is on the top floor of the hotel. It is only open for dinner during the week. It offers brunch on weekends.

Harrah’s Tahoe was exceptional, but there is no way to describe the surrounding area. You have to see it for yourself. The massive lake in the valley is like nothing I have ever seen. The mountains reminded me of when I live in the Black Hills in South Dakota.

If you have never been to Tahoe then you are missing out. If you decide to go, I highly recommend Harrah’s. Make sure to reserve the room through your Total Rewards card login, if you have one. It may not show as an offer but the discount can appear while you search rates.

I totally failed at getting pictures of the property.  You will just have to go see it for yourself.

Nevada Anti-SLAPP Law Repeal Passed Senate – Time to Fight

The Nevada senate voted 21-0 to repeal much of Nevada’s anti-SLAPP law.  Unfortunately, none of the Nevada news outlets have reported this.

Currently, Nevada’s anti-SLAPP law deters frivolous defamation lawsuits.  It immunes those that speak or write the truth or give an opinion on a topic of public concern from lawsuits.

A SLAPP is a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.  Opponents have been known to file these types of lawsuits to silence critics.  These can be expensive to defend.  Too often, the person with the deepest pockets wins, regardless of the merits of the case, because the defendant cannot afford the legal fees to stand up for their rights.

As the law passed in 2013 is written now, a defendant that has a SLAPP suit filed against them can request a special hearing.  If the judge agrees that the lawsuit is a SLAPP, it is immediately tossed.  The plaintiff owes the defendant attorney’s fees and up to $10,000 as decided by the judge.  The victim of the SLAPP suit can then file a suit seeking punitive damages.

SB 444 would remove the recovery of attorney’s fees, the potential monetary relief of up to $10,000 that goes to the defendant, and the explicit ability to bring separate action for punitive damages.  It also removes language that immunes those that speak the truth and their opinions on matters of public concern from these types of lawsuits.

If you live in Nevada, the time to speak up about protecting our free speech is now.  This is where you can find your state lawmakers. You can comment directly on SB 444 here.

Governor Sandoval signed the anti-SLAPP bill into law two years ago.  Make sure to contact him to remind him of that in the hopes that he vetoes SB 444 if it makes it to his desk.

It is hard to think there is any positive motive or agenda behind this repeal.  An easy conclusion to draw is that someone is unhappy that their defamation lawsuit machine was put out of business by it.  We shouldn’t be allowing those types of motives repeal great laws that protect free speech and the citizens of Nevada.

Marc Randazza was behind the push in 2013 to pass an anti-SLAPP in Nevada. He had this to say on Twitter last night:

Pokertube and 180Vita Continue to Use Content Without Permission, Including Mine

Those of us in poker media know about 180Vita, founded by Jamie Nevin, all too well.  The company is the previous owner of Pokerupdate.com, a site that once had a reputation for copying content word-for-word from other sources without permission or attribution while under 180Vita’s umbrella.  The PokerUpdate site was sold last year and is no longer associated with 180Vita.

Companies that produce poker videos have voiced displeasure towards Pokertube, owned by 180Vita, for hosting its content without permission.  Its “unrivalled” live coverage of poker events drew some ire last summer.

On Sunday, I published an article about a Las Vegas poker room closing.  Two days later, Pokertube did the same.  They attributed a rumor to me and then went on to copy my article almost word-for-word without using quotes or further attribution.  A Copyscape search confirms this.

Pokertube also copy/pasted a chart listing the last 12 poker rooms in Las Vegas to close, again presenting my work as its own.

I have included screenshots of the Pokertube article at the bottom of this post with a link to my article that was used.

My past criticism not welcomed by 180Vita

180Vita did not take my criticism well in the past.  In 2013, I got sick of its content theft and wrote an article about it.  Instead of deleting the content and apologizing, 180Vita sent a lawyer after me, claiming that I had some personal vendetta against the company.  180Vita only deleted the copied content after I posted at 2+2 that it was still live five days after the date on the cease-and-desist letter.

They continued to threaten legal action when I refused to cooperate.  They even demanded that I sign an apology and publicly recant the articles, as well as agreeing not to write about them anymore. I refused.

I did not have time for their behavior.  I agreed that if they changed their ways I would remove the content.  I regret that decision, and apologize to the poker community for it, but if 180Vita filed its promised lawsuit, it would have been a massive waste of my time to defend.  I had better things to do.

I felt like the behavior of copying content would cease and something good could come out of it if I gave them a chance.  They seemed very sincere about fixing the problem and I believed them.  I don’t feel like my goal was accomplished since here I am again writing about the same topic 18 months later.

Nevada Anti-SLAPP law enacted

Nevada’s powerful Anti-SLAPP law went into effect in October 2013, about 10 weeks after the date on 180Vita’s cease-and-desist letter.  This article I wrote at the time should explain why that matters.  The cliffs are that people that file frivolous defamation lawsuits against Nevadans after October 1, 2013 are severely punished before the case is ever heard.

Any legal threats pertaining to this post will be ignored, but I will happily post it here for the industry to critique, should I receive one.

Even after all this, I still tried to handle situation privately

Since 180Vita threatened me, I have gone to them twice privately about issues surrounding that company’s unauthorized use of work involving me to avoid having to write an article like this.  I simply wanted to keep the peace.

The company removed the offending work both times.  I suppose it is good that they were quick to remove the content, but all that does is give them a freeroll.  I have grown tired of it.

Their actions lead me to believe that their previous legal threat was nothing more than a way to continue using work like mine, while at the same time discouraging people from exposing them.

The fact the behavior has not stopped certainly backs up my theory.  To the best of my knowledge, 180Vita has never shown any remorse over threatening me or using my work without permission, more evidence that backs up my opinion.

Check out this Twitter exchange

This Twitter exchange is an example of how Pokertube/180Vita handles a public demand of content removal:

In my opinion, the responses to the content removal demand accurately reflect the values and attitude of 180Vita, parent company of Pokertube.com and Pokervip.com.

I always try to work out issues privately first

Sometimes writers publish something while tired and don’t do enough to differentiate their work.  Other times, a bad article from a rogue freelancer may get past an editor.

I feel like everyone deserves a free pass on this at some point.  We all make mistakes.  The friendly email I send when I discover my work being used without permission is almost always met with some level of remorse and an apology.

180Vita is well past this being a one-time mistake and I have let this go on for too long.

What is the big deal?

Some people that are not writers may not understand why this is such a big deal.  Writers make money by providing content to sites.  This can be news, editorials, poker room reviews, or anything else that gets published.  If another site steals it, the original work’s value is diminished.

This is why copyright laws exist.  Without the ability to protect one’s work from unauthorized use, there would be little incentive to create, which would substantially lower the quality of published work out there.  If my work loses half of its value because I allow it to be used by other sites, I will be forced to find other work.

Comparing the articles

Here is the link to the original article.  Compare it to these screenshots of the body of the Pokertube article below.  Note that the differences between the two articles mostly pertain to grammatical errors inserted into the Pokertube version.

 

SCOSSA High-Low Craps Available on the Apple App Store

I wrote about Scossa a few years ago and it is a popular post on my blog.  It is no longer available in casinos, but the game inventor turned it into an app.  I thought the readers looking for Scossa would enjoy this press release on the game.

You can download the app here.

Dallas, Texas, January 20, 2015 –Available today, SCOSSA® High-Low Craps is a new, free-to-play casino dice game that preserves the excitement and speed of play of craps while embracing the simplicity of roulette. Casino action at its best!

The app is geared towards novice to intermediate players, but also appeals to more experienced gamblers. If you have ever played Roulette or Craps, you’ll love this game. Even if you haven’t, SCOSSA® is easy to learn, fun to play and allows you to win big. If you are heading to a Casino to play craps, SCOSSA® is a great way to learn the odds and develop a betting strategy. Simply place your bets, roll the dice, and instantly know whether you lost or won. Sound familiar? It is really quite simple! In fact, some players have commented that it is “like playing Roulette with Dice.”

Like Roulette, you can place straight number bets, split bets or range bets. Similar to craps, you can place hard way bets, or the NEW split-hard way bets, then Roll, Swipe or Shake the device to roll the dice to determine the outcome.  Added to the excitement, bet on Triple 7’s…roll three consecutive 7’s and the payout is 200 to 1!  Other features are a display showing your last five rolls – great for developing a betting strategy; and social media so you can refer friends, watch a video ad, or post your success for FREE chips.

“Just make your bets and throw the dice. In other words, the game has the simplicity of roulette but is played with dice just like craps. Compared to craps, the odds are a lot better…” said Michael Shackleford from the Wizard of Odds, best known for professional analysis of the mathematics of casino games.

SCOSSA® High-Low Craps is available for free download worldwide on the Apple App Store.  Please visit www.ScossaDiceGame.com for more information about SCOSSA® High-Low Craps.  The game is developed by Brill Entertainment, LLC in Dallas, TX founded in 2010.

Politically Correct Police Slam Borgata Restaurant for Honoring MLK with Favorite Meal

I try to stay out of politically correct debates, but this one really rubbed me the wrong way.  A group of people that are not from the South have completely misunderstood a southern tradition.

In what is one of the most baffling stories I have read in a while, a handful of poker players slammed a Borgata restaurant for honoring Dr. Martin Luther King on his holiday by serving one of his favorite meals as a special.  The person that originally tweeted the menu even used the hashtag #isitracist.

Anyone that grew up in the South like me (I’m born and raised just outside of Atlanta) just cringed at this for multiple reasons.

First, it is customary to honor a person in the South with a favorite meal.  It can be on a birthday or to celebrate another life event.

Food is a tradition in the South, and Southerners don’t eat salads and gluten-free crap.  Southerners with deep roots eat comfort food.  It is regional and not specific to any race, contrary to what some of these noise makers seem to think.

Maybe there is some sort of misconception about comfort food in other parts of the country, but it certainly isn’t that way where Dr. King was raised and is now honored with a memorial.

I grew up eating exactly what was put on MLK’s birthday menu at Borgata.  It was a staple in our southern household. Southern diners serve exactly that type of meal, whether it is in an urban, suburban, or rural area, regardless of the demographics of its clientèle.

Honoring Dr. King with his favorite meal, the one served by Borgata on Monday, is also a tradition in the South.  Some restaurants outside of the comfort food niche would also advertise it as their daily special on January 15th, his actual birthday, to honor him. The observed holiday later became the third Monday in January.

For whatever reason, some poker players feel that Borgata has done something wrong by participating in this longstanding tradition.  If there was any doubt, a simple Google search would have proven the meal served is associated with Dr. King and his holiday.

The politically correct police got this one wrong.  It appears that these people have a stereotype about comfort food and are ignorant of the culture in the South.  They should be embarrassed of their actions for shaming an establishment that brought a tradition of the South into Atlantic City, one that honored a man so great that he deserves his own holiday.

This post was simply meant to educate.  I’m not trying to call anyone out.  That is why I did not use any names of the people involved in this.  I feel that the people that are offended by how a Borgata restaurant honored Dr. King have stereotypes about the South that are false, which led them to draw an improper conclusion.

There are certainly many issues in the South, but none of them have to do with its food and traditions of honor that surround it.

Response from Senator Harry Reid to My RAWA Inquiry

I wrote Sen. Harry Reid, Sen. Dean Heller, and Rep. Joe Heck about my opposition to the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA).  Sen. Reid’s response is discouraging, especially considering that Nevada has already regulated online poker and jobs like mine depend on the industry.  I have yet to receive a reply from Sen. Heller or Rep. Heck.

Response from Senator Harry Reid:

——————————————————-

Dear Mr. Mehaffey:

Thank you for contacting me regarding online gaming. I appreciate hearing from you.

As a former gaming regulator, I believe that maintaining the integrity and fairness of the gaming industry – both in brick and mortar casinos and on the Internet – requires strong and effective regulation. Unfortunately, the current state of affairs is the worst possible situation for consumers, regulators, and law enforcement officials. For more than a decade, illegal online websites offering Internet poker and other types of gambling have grown into a multi-billion dollar market. Yet, none of these sites are regulated by responsible U.S. regulators, and none of them have an incentive to comply with basic consumer protections and gambling regulations.

Whether one supports or opposes regulated online gambling, the current U.S. laws on this topic are outdated. The 2011 Department of Justice’s (DOJ) reinterpretation of the Wire Act has opened the door to permitting states to conduct all types of non-sporting, online gambling. Without strong regulations in place to govern this gambling, consumers inevitably will end up being hurt.

On March 26, 2014, Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) introduced the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (S. 2159). This legislation would prohibit online gaming. S. 2159 was referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. Should this or related legislation reach the full Senate for consideration, I will remain mindful of your concerns regarding the impact of online gaming on our nation’s vulnerable populations.

Again, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.

My best wishes to you.

Sincerely,
HARRY REID
United States Senator

 

Where I Have Been Writing Lately

I have written several blog posts in the past few weeks after writing just one in the first eight months of the year.  That is because the bulk of my news and casino reviews writing now appears on a variety of sites.

My most recent big project is writing information about resorts on the Las Vegas Strip and downtown for WorldCasinoIndex.com.  That section is completed and I am now working on resorts just off the Strip.  The information includes casino game information, hotel rates, restaurants and nightclubs.

My main news site continues to be USPoker.com and its sister sites.  I mostly write about the U.S. online poker movement with a few Las Vegas stories now and then.  I write some Las Vegas and NFL sports betting information at 4Flush.com.  I also write some content about the offshore online poker industry for SafestPokerSites.com.

I own a bunch of domains.  I am seriously considering developing a Las Vegas poker site.  That niche seems to be seriously lacking right now.  It might be hard to make some money off of that segment but it would be more like a hobby and service.

There is a lot of demand for this type of information.  While I hardly get to play anymore, I have all of the information I need to develop that type of site and make it the highest of quality.  What I am lacking is the time to work on it right now.

I already own Deadwoodpoker.com and it has never made a cent. That site needs updating badly.  I guess that gives me an excuse to take a trip to South Dakota in the coming months.

I plan on writing more on this blog.  I hated seeing it become so dated.  Expect more information about Las Vegas observations, poker, and maybe an occasional rant.

In the meantime, the only gambling I have been doing lately is on some full pay video poker machines on Fremont Street.  The theoretical rate is equal to working a minimum wage job.  The difference is that McDonald’s employees do not receive free drinks just for showing up to work.

If you have any ideas for a blog topic then feel free to leave a comment.  I am always looking for new topics to write about and learn.

 

How Nevada Should Raise $800 Million a Year Without the Margins Tax

There is no denying that education funding in Nevada is woefully inadequate. It is time to fix that.  Some groups have proposed a 2% tax on margins to raise $800 million per year.  It is not the solution.

The margins tax initiative would force companies to pay 2% of one of the following:

  • 70% of gross revenue
  • Gross revenue minus cost of goods sold
  • Gross revenue minus cost of employee compensation

This means that there is a minor deduction.  Most businesses do not run higher than 30% on either product or labor costs, so for simplicity sake, I will just use the 70% of gross revenue number.

This makes the true tax rate 1.4% of total receipts, regardless of actual profit.  A company could have made a large investment that made it unprofitable, but it will still pay 1.4% of its gross revenue to Nevada.  There could have been a catastrophic event in that year for a company, but it will still pay the margins tax in full.  The enormous increase in insurance costs affecting all businesses right now is not deductible, nor is rent, interest, depreciation, expansion, or anything else not directly tied to the cost of the product or the labor to produce it.

This Creates a Sales Tax on Groceries

Walmart’s profit margin is about 3%.  Its competitors profit at about half that rate.  Grocery stores run margins of about 1%. The margins tax will wipe out the entire profits of these businesses.  It is naive to think that these companies will operate in the red for the good of Nevada education.  They are going to raise prices to offset the new taxes.

The margins tax will be passed on as a cleverly disguised sales tax.  This will affect the poor disproportionately.  There are far better solutions to raising this money.

How Nevada Should Raise $800 Million a Year Without Margins Tax

There are so many segments of the Nevada economy that are not paying their fair share in taxes.  It is time to fix that.  Some will require residents to pick up some of the burden, but most of it will be at the expense of tourism and mining industries.

Raise the Gaming Tax Rate 

Nevada casinos make less of their income on a percentage basis from gaming than ever before due to the diversification of the Nevada tourism industry.  The numbers are returning to prerecession levels, meaning that casinos are actually generating more revenue now more than ever when taking amenities into consideration.

Nevada unrestricted gaming licenses won $11.1 billion in 2013.  That generated about $750 million in taxes at the 6.75% rate, which is the lowest in the country.  Only two other states (SD and NJ) are even below 10%.  Most are 20% and higher.

The casinos will fight any increase in gaming tax rates.  They will come up with a million excuses as to why it will hurt their business, but there is one fact that refutes their entire argument. Virtually every one of them is paying more in other jurisdictions and doing just fine.  Unlike those other states, they are not paying income taxes on nongaming income in Nevada, making their effective tax rate even lower.

The new Massachusetts gaming market has a 25% rate.  Three Nevada operators fought to enter that state.

Macau has an average tax rate of 39%.  That is still lower than some states. Pennsylvania is the number two gaming market in the country.  It taxes slot revenue at 55%.

The casinos can afford a 1% increase in gaming tax rates in Nevada.  That would raise $100 million.

Here is a list of all state gaming tax rates.

Tax Resort Amenities

More people are visiting to Las Vegas without gambling at all.  The state needs to get a bigger chunk of the money spent by these tourists that goes virtually untaxed.  A $2.50 increase per room in the hotel/motel tax would generate $81 million from the 125,000 Las Vegas area rooms, assuming a 90% occupancy rate.  This is about identical to what the margins tax would be, it is just more transparent.  Throw the rest of the state in there and that number easily exceeds $100 million.

Tax Restricted Gaming Licenses Similar to Resorts

Restricted gaming licenses are taverns and grocery stores that do not offer full services but have video poker and slots.  The maximum number of machines in a restricted gaming establishment is 15.  There is a tax and licensing fee of about $730 per machine each year.  A tavern with 15 devices pays about $11,000 per year in taxes. Some taverns make that in a day.

Let’s not pretend that these taverns are anything more than small video gambling establishments.  Tax them at the standard rate paid by unrestricted licenses, based on monthly win:

  • 3.5% of the first $50,000 during the month, plus
  • 4.5% of the next $84,000 plus
  • 6.75% of revenue exceeding $134,000

Tax Mining More

Nevada is the largest gold producer in the country.  There is only a 5% mining tax in the state.  That raised $236 million in the last fiscal year.  A 7% tax rate would put it in line with other major mining states.  We just found another $100 million.

A ballot initiative to remove the 5% cap on mining taxes will be voted on by Nevadans in November.  It would authorize the legislature to raise the mining tax.

Brothels

It is not often that a legal business comes along and begs to pay taxes, but that is what is happening in Nevada.  It seems that most politicians want to ignore that legalized prostitution even exists.  It is not going anywhere.  A majority of Nevadans either support it, feel it is a local issue, or simply do not care.

The live entertainment tax does not currently apply to brothels.  Setting the 5% LET tier on the industry would generate $365 million, based on numbers provided by the brothel owners in 2011.  Taxing it just 2% would bring in $146 million.

Cliffs

  • Raise gaming taxes 1%
  • Add $2.50 per night state tax on hotel rooms
  • Raise mining taxes 2%
  • Stop ignoring brothels, which are begging to pay taxes

Health Insurance Canceled Due to ACA, Again – October 14, 2014

I have been reluctant to publicly join the health care debate.  I have gotten to the point that I feel I must speak about what the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) has done to my family.

I am a freelance writer.  I have purchased private health insurance since 2007.  I was opposed to Obamacare but tried to give it some benefit of the doubt.

“If you like your plan, you can keep your plan”

There are at least 37 documented times that Barrack Obama and his cabinet said “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan” or similar.  That was fine with me.  My family carried a great policy with a high deductible.  We got doctor visits and cheap prescriptions.  Our deductible was capped if we had a major bill.

In 2013, my family received a cancellation notice from our insurance company.  The notice stated that the policy did not conform to ACA standards so it must be discontinued under federal law.  This ran contrary to the previous promises made.

Our insurance company gave us one out. We could extend one year knowing that our rates would go up about 15% and we would have to pay the Obamacare fine for not carrying proper coverage.  We decided we would not renew the policy.

Nevada created a health insurance exchange but it never worked properly.  The state blew $72 million on it before abandoning it.  We could have given health insurance free for a year to about 10,000 families for that amount.  It is now the target of numerous lawsuits.

I tried to get insurance through the exchange but it never worked properly.  The questionnaire asked only one question per page that would have to be confirmed two additional times.  Once the site timed out all of this information would be lost and I would have to start over.

After wasting hours trying to get the site to work I was finally able to get quotes.  Premiums were more than double what we paid for deductibles that were not much different than the ones we already carried.  We were forced to carry coverage for ridiculous items we do not need and would never use that contributed to this increase.  Being forced to leave the insured group’s loyalty discount also contributed to the difference.  My wife and I decided that our family would go without health insurance.

Obama admitted that he lied about the insured being able to keep their policies in November 2013. He offered a chance for existing insured to keep their coverage for another year and not pay the fines.  We reconsidered our carrier’s offer and renewed it for one year.

It is hard to think that anyone would have voted for this law had known the insured would become uninsured.  Those that were misled should have a second chance to vote.

Nevada Health Exchange Sold Us Policy We Never Created

Fast forward to March 2014.  We started receiving insurance information from Nevada’s child health care program known as Nevada Checkup.  The notices stated that if our children were already insured then we could not use the cards. Since our kids were insured these cards were of no use to us.

The next month we received more information from Nevada Checkup. I decided to contact them to see why this was happening.  Their voicemail system is nearly always full when I call so there is no way to leave a message most times.

I did get through one time to the voicemail and left a message.  I got a call back.  The woman asked me to return her call in a message.  She did not leave her number and she called from a private number so it was blocked from called ID.

I decided not to waste any more time with this until the end of May when I started receiving bills for this insurance we never signed up for and never used.  I again tried to contact Nevada Checkup, but to no avail due to the voicemail being full.

I received a packet of information from two insurance companies that appeared to be vying for my business related to this state program.  I called both.  Neither could find me in their system with the account number, names, date of births and Social Security Numbers of my family.

I also called Medicaid, which had a number listed in this mountain of documentation.  The woman I encountered at Medicaid was extremely helpful but she also could not locate my family in the system.  I again unsuccessfully tried to contact Nevada Checkup.

I am not paying the premiums since I never signed up for this policy.  I am concerned that my credit could be damaged or someone collection company try to sue me for nonpayment.  I have also spent a good 20 hours on this entire nightmare, taking time away from my business and family.

Policy Canceled in 2014

I received a notice today, October 14, that our policy would be canceled and there would be no reconsideration this time.  We will now have to go without health insurance due to the law that was allegedly written to get people insured.  Now that we are getting older we will not have insurance because we can no longer afford all of the crap that is forced into policies. This obviously would not happen if we were able to keep the existing policy, as promised.

The feds have now extended non-ACA policies through 2017.  This is up to state insurance commissioners.  To the best of my knowledge, Nevada is not allowing any of these policies to remain active so this change of policy appears to be of no help to us.

The federal government clearly sees the damage caused to families like mine since it kicked the can down the road several years.  It is baffling that policy cannot be enacted into law to put this issue to rest once and for all.

I understand that the health insurance situation in the U.S. was not ideal and that was the entire reason behind the new law.  The thought behind Obamacare was in the right place.  Ramming through legislation nobody bothered to read was not the answer.

It is even more insulting that while I can no longer afford health insurance for my family after December 2014, I will be forced to pay fines that will subsidize other people.  There are ways around that, but the fact the law creates this scenario is unethical.

What About Subsidies?

One of the big selling points of Obamacare is that those making under a certain amount would receive federal subsidies for insurance. That is not really the case when you are self employed. When I tried to buy insurance from the Nevada exchange I was forced to submit a W-2.  I am self employed and file a Schedule C. Since I could not supply this information, I could not get subsidies.

I was instructed that my subsidies would appear on my tax return in the form of a tax credit. Since I am self employed, I have no idea what I will make in 2014.  I am basically being told that I am forced to buy a product that has no predefined price.  In that case, one must assume the highest price advertised is the actual price.

Senator Reid Refuses to Act

It is time for Congress to go back and revisit this.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has refused to discuss Obamacare on the Senate floor even though he has received more than 50 bills related to it that already passed the House.  Forget little people like me.  The Las Vegas casino unions were threatening to strike over Obamacare and he did nothing.  It is hard to imagine that he acts in Nevada’s best interests.

Insurance Was Always the Problem

It is hard to argue that giving power to insurance companies was the solution.  They are part of the problem.  Many insurance policies do not pay anything, they simply create a discount off what the patient pays.  The solution was to fix this problem so that the working class could pay a reasonable amount in cash for health care visits.  All this does is encourage people to needlessly visit doctors.  It also discourages the next generation from entering the medical field.

I’m Not a Conservative

Some people that read this will probably automatically dismiss this as another angry republican.  I am a moderate by all accounts, probably even libertarian on some issues. I am certainly not a conservative.  I would probably be considered “Nevada Republican” since the party here voted to dump moral issues from its agenda but I do not identify with most republicans as they lose me when they start to force their moral policies into law.

On the other hand, I am baffled that the same party that feels big government should stay out of bedrooms, marriage and abortion feels that forcing Obamacare onto people is somehow different. The school lunch program nutrition debacle is another situation where no logic was applied. There are several other education policies that baffle me, as if federal lawmakers have any idea what policy is best for local public schools.

My point is simply that this health care law that was forced down our throats has millions of people like me in a bad situation. Most of the affected people are self employed or small business owners.  There are going to be a lot more contractors in the workplace as employers opt to cut hours and positions to avoid paying their share of Obamacare.

It was certainly not ever anyone’s intention to force families that were already insured into the situation I am in.  Unfortunately, it appears that the people responsible for ramming this poorly worded law through Congress refuse to admit their mistakes and fix them.  Those people will be looked at as one of the reasons for our epic health care collapse down the road if we cannot convince them to change their ways or vote them out of office, replacing them with those willing to pass a legitimate health care law.

Thank you for reading my rant.

Thoughts on the New Downtown Summerlin Development

I live about two blocks away from Downtown Summerlin.  That is the new shopping district located just south of Red Rock Resort in the far west end of the Las Vegas Valley.  I went to go check it out on the first day it was open, which was Thursday, October 9.  I returned on Monday.

The opening of the mall symbolizes the end of the Las Vegas recession.  A steel structure of the project sat idle for about four years before construction started on it again.  It was a victim of the economic downturn that bankrupted the original developer.  It is great to see this massive project completed.

Great Marketing Plan by Downtown Summerlin

The people in charge of the grand opening marketing deserve recognition.  The event drew in every news organization in Las Vegas.  The social media campaign was impressive and interaction with guests was excellent.  There were activities throughout the weekend to help draw residents to the new development.  We also enjoyed watching the opening night fireworks show without even having to leave our house.

Major Restaurant Competition

The development has 125 shops.  About 30 of those will be restaurants or food related businesses.

That is a lot of new restaurants opening at almost the same time.  It is also not in an area that is conducive to lunch sales and many of the restaurants in the development are what I would consider lunch options.  There is very little in the way of office space in the area.  That will change as the Downtown Summerlin expands, but it is true for the near future.

The competition is going to be tough for these original tenants dedicated to food.  I visited one on opening day when Downtown Summerlin was nearly at capacity in terms of cars and people and the restaurant was nearly empty.  I visited the same place today and I was the only customer in there.  Hopefully this is not a sign of the future.

The existing food outlets in the surrounding area may also struggle.  Red Rock Resort seems to recognize this as it has nearly turned its restaurant selection completely over in the past year.

Retail Fills Void in Market

The shopping offers a wide selection.  Retail was a segment missing from Summerlin.  It is an affluent area that was underserved.  The highway access should draw people from the northwest part of town.  I would imagine that this area will boom with spending during Christmas season.

Traffic

The traffic generated from Downtown Summerlin has been overwhelming so far.  One issue has been the traffic signals at Sahara Avenue and NV215 and Town Center and 215.  These signals are setup poorly on timers.  The turn arrow off Sahara to go southbound on 215 goes twice per cycle but it runs very short.  These need to be fixed immediately as it causes backups that are unnecessary.

It is also quite shocking that nobody had the foresight to put a light at Pavilion Center and Griffith Peak at the side entrance of Red Rock.  There are 100 useless traffic signals in town and this intersection sits as a four way stop that was not efficient when Pavilion Center was a dead end, much less with 106 acres of new retail sitting on it.

The traffic pattern within Downtown Summerlin is a bit annoying as well.  For example, when you turn right into the complex from Sahara Ave the road dead ends into a service drive going one way the other direction within 500 feet. Obviously these are needed, but the location and lack of ability to drive through that way is poor planning.  The only way to get through it is to drive through a parking area.

Sidewalk and Crosswalk Connectivity Need Improvement

The layout of the sidewalks is terrible in the area I walked around along the Sahara Avenue entrance.  There is no crosswalk where the exit to Sahara is.  The sidewalks just assume that you want to leave.  This may not be that big of a problem except that the sidewalk on the other side of the road ends towards the west side of the entrance into nothing, leading to a bunch of rocks. I doubt this is an area of future development.  It isn’t demonstrated that way on the maps and it would obscure the existing tenant.

There is basically no way to walk from Trader Joe’s to the building where Moe’s and Five Guys are without walking through cactus and rocks even though they are within sight of each other.

Where Are the Bike Racks?

Downtown Summerlin offers no bike lanes, paths or racks that I saw.  They certainly are not in the restaurant or frontage shopping areas. People that arrived by bike either locked them to random objects or left them unlocked.  This situation was also noticed by this blogger.

There are apparently some bike racks in a hidden area of the parking deck and by the movie theater.  This does little for people riding bikes to the quick serve outlets that are forced to lock them up to handicap parking signs and outdoor tables.

It seems that being bike friendly was the type of image the property was portraying.  It is just across the highway from a popular bike path.  I would ride my bike up there for lunch often but it does not even provide a place to store bikes.  This was a major oversight that I hope is corrected.

All of this is meant to be constructive criticism.  I am sure some of the issues I presented are in the works.  The development was new and it is easy to understand that a few items did not make the initial launch.  I want everyone to succeed that invested in this property and wish them the best of luck.