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Utah's gaming getaway.

West Wendover, Nev., Mayor Walt Sanders does not mind if Utahn still refer to his city as "Wendover" as long as they keep coming back. Judging from the state of Utah's political affairs, things are looking bright, he said.

"As long as there are Utah politicians trying to get certain legislation [no pari-mutuel betting, additional tax on liqour, smoking ban in restaurants] passed, we're going to get more interest from the Wasatch Front," Sanders said. "Let's face it, people like to have those things available to them, and when the state becomes more restrictive, the more enticed people will be to come to West Wendover."

Enticed may be putting it mildly.

Donna Larsen, co-owner of Donna's Tours, a charter bus line, estimated her company takes approximately 29,000 weekend fun seekers to West Wendover every year, not to mention her mid-week business. Marsha Christensen, vice president of Nevada Tours, said her company transports roughly 70,000 to 80,000 people every year, while Dick Maben of Casino Caravans said 35,000 charter his company's buses.

And this doesn't take into consideration all the people who don't mind the two-hour drive from Salt Lake City to West Wendover.

People living along the Wasatch Front have accounted for about 90 percent of the city's annual gaming revenues over the last several years. The name West Wendover may be foreign to them; the city incorporated July 1, 1991, and officially adopted the name West Wendover. But Sanders said they can call it what they want as long as they know where to go when they want to play.

The Lure of Easy Money

A $20 to $50 stash from a week's pay could turn into hundreds or thousands of dollars with one pull of a slot machine handle or with a "full house" in poker in west Wendover. Depending on the game, it is possible that the Internal Revenue Service may ever find out about it.

Norma Lally, public affairs officers of the Las Vegas District of the IRS, said winnings of $1,200 or more on the slots, and $1,500 or more on keno require the casino to issue the winner a form W-2G, like a W-2, showing the gross winnings, the federal income tax withheld, etc. No W-2Gs, however, are required for winnings from table games such as blackjack, roulette, craps, poker, or bacarat.

"We're expecting everyone to be an honest, taxpaying citizen, and report his or her gambling winnings on the honor system," Lally said. That's a system that doesn't always work, but the IRS likely is missing out on little unreported winnings because "Casinos aren't in the business to lose a lot of money."

In 1991, West Wendover welcomed 1.1 million visitors, and projections are that the number will go up in 1992, said city manager Stuart Powell.

"Recession doesn't seem to affect the gambling industry too much. People look to different things to escape from the hundrum of routine and get away from reality. Gambling is an attractive proposition when you don;t have a lot of money. Plus the lure [of making big money] is always there."

Understanding the Church Position

On January 5, 1992, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement reaffirming its long-standing opposition to gambling in an effort to thwart a bill to legalize pari-mutuel betting in Utah.

"Latter-day Saint leaders have denounced gambling as an evil that |tends to break down the moral and spiritual strength of people,'" a portion of the statement read.

Yet a moral stance against gambling emanating from the heart of West Wendover's No. 1 market area has little effect on business, said Steve May, Marketing director for the Stateline and Silver Smith Hotel/Casinos.

"We understand the church's position, but we really consider our business to be more of an entertainment nature," May said. "There are people who would never come here and have never seen Wendover because of the church influence. But we still get people who come here and don't have an interest in gambling. They just want to get away from the rat race, or they want to go golfing."

"People will say that they came here to eat," said Peppermill marketing director Leslie Haslam. "They come out here to game first, but if they have to make a decision where to gamble, our food is our biggest draw. A lot of the younger people come out here because of the bands we book and the open cabaret where there's dancing. Of course, some people don't like to move away from the table to listen to the band even for an hour."

Adds Larsen, a member of the LDS church, "We do almost as much good as the church does. A lot of the seniors we take [to West Wendover] have nothing to do all month, and they really look forward to their trip to Wendover. I don't feel guilty at all about taking them out to gamble."

Sister Cities

Straddling the state line, West Wendover and Wendover, Utah, share more than a common name. The two city councils meet jointly, and they have an interlocal water agreement.

"Our fire department is a combined deal," said Wendover Mayor Albert Smith. "Each entity has a firehouse of its own, but the departments work together, so if they have a fire on that [Nevada] side, our boys go over there just as if it was ours. The two entities meet together and work as one."

Wendover, Utah's, claim to fame is that it was the location of the U.S. Army Air Base where the crew of Enola Gay, the bomber which dropped the atomic bombs on Japan, was trained.

After World War II, the airfield quickly became a relic. However, the two cities' cooperative efforts with the Federal Aviation Administration will see to it that a new airport capable of landing 737 jets will be open by this fall.

Officials from both cities anticipate the airport's potential impact.

"It's going to be a real asset to the state, as well as to Wendover to have an airport out here. If we start landing transport planes, people could travel by bus or by train [Amtrak] to Salt Lake City, especially when Salt Lake is fogged in."

Sanders said the resurrected airfield will mean West Wendover should propel an already rapidly moving city economy by bringing in junket-type visitors from as far as 1,000 miles away. He projected at least 250 new visitors per day coming to the Wendover area during the initial stages of the airport operation.

"Fuel taxes and landing fees will go to Utah coffers, and ticket and baggage handlers would work on the Utah side," Sanders said. "And the visitors would come to Nevada."
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Title Annotation:West Wendover, Nevada attracts thousands of customers from Utah each year for recreational activities unavailable in Utah, including gambling which faces tightening restrictions from church and political leaders
Publication:Utah Business
Date:Apr 1, 1992
Previous Article:The 1991 Civil Rights Act: new rules for Utah employers.
Next Article:Hub of the Grand Circle.

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