While acknowledging Southern Nevada’s economy is slowly improving, economist John Restrepo said there is more work to do before the region’s economy is truly healthy.

“This isn’t your father’s recession,” Restrepo said during a presentation at City National Bank’s Economic Forecast and Market Update for 2013. “It’s a whole different world out there.”

He said reset, rebuild and recover “are the words that best describe where we are in Southern Nevada.”

Restrepo, principal with RCG Economics in Las Vegas, said the job market has begun to recover from the recession.

The region’s prerecession employment market created 33,000 jobs annually, with a high of 63,000 from December 2004 to December 2005. During the recession, the annual average was a loss of 22,000 jobs.

Restrepo said about 15,700 jobs have been created in the past 12 months.

Initial claims for unemployment benefits in Nevada fell more than 13 percent to 20,533 in January, the Department of Employment, Business and Industry reports.

“The job market is slowly coming back, but it’s not where it was prerecession,” he said. “We are slowly coming back to historical averages.”

Restrepo said the region’s economy was far from being diversified.

“No, we are not diversified,” Restrepo told about 175 City National executives, clients and prospects at Wynn Las Vegas. “About 33.3 percent of all our jobs are in tourism, hospitality and gaming. We are still pretty concentrated in (those) industries.”

Fees stall bill

A bill that would allow Nevada to get into the business of interactive gambling was introduced Wednesday in the Assembly, but it already has run into trouble with Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Assembly Bill 114 was referred to the Judiciary Committee.

Sandoval asked lawmakers in his State of the State address in January to pass an online gambling bill within 30 days.

The governor announced Friday that he is working with Assembly Majority Leader William Horne to get a bill through the Legislature.

But the license fee increase, which would rise to $1 million from $500,000, could jeopardize the legislation. The bill also would increase the renewal fee to $500,000 from $250,000.

“Gov. Sandoval does not support the increased fee and will work to resolve this issue before the legislation is passed into law,” Sandoval spokeswoman Mary-Sarah Kinner said.

Contract talks

Maintaining wages and benefits was the overriding concern of Strip and downtown casino workers as Culinary Local 226 and Bartenders Local 165 enter into contract talks with much of the Las Vegas hotel-casino industry.

Several thousand union members convened Monday in meetings at the Cashman Center in different sessions to discuss the upcoming contract talks.

Five-year collective bargaining agreements expire June 1 at Strip resorts operated by MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment Corp., and with downtown Las Vegas casinos.

Several other casinos, including the Tropicana, Riviera, LVH, Stratosphere and Treasure Island, also have contracts expiring.

For now, members of the union’s negotiating committees repeated the same mantra: maintain the current wages and benefits package.

“That’s our primary goal,” said Dunnunique Ahmad, who has been employed in the housekeeping department at CityCenter’s Aria since the property opened in 2009. “We’re together in that effort.”

Stadium opposed

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas effort to build a 60,000-seat domed stadium has a $360 million commitment from Majestic Realty but is facing stiff opposition from one of Las Vegas’ biggest resort companies.

MGM Resorts International, which owns 10 major hotel-casinos on the Strip, earlier had pledged a $20 million donation to the UNLV project but on Wednesday issued a statement opposing the $900 million venue.

“We cannot support the current UNLVNow concept, as it has grown too expensive for our community to support,” MGM Resorts said in a statement. “We continue to support an on-campus stadium for UNLV that is appropriately configured and responsibly financed. We remain committed to working with the university and others in the community to refine an appropriate plan.”

Majestic, owned by billionaire developer and Los Angeles Lakers co-owner Ed Roski, is the university’s private partner on the proposed sports and entertainment “mega-events center.” The stadium would be the centerpiece of UNLVNow, a far-reaching campus face-lift that includes Majestic building 2,000 to 3,000 student housing units and 300,000 to 400,000 square feet of shops on the 332-acre campus.

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