Las Vegas Gets Final Presidential Debate

Las Vegas will host the final 2016 presidential debate at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center (l.) before voters decide the matter at the polls, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced. Local officials cite the city’s development as a business center as well as resort destination among reasons the commission chose Las Vegas to host one of four scheduled debates.

The University of Nevada-Las Vegas will host the final 2016 presidential debate before voters go to the polls next year.

The Commission on Presidential Debates on September 23 announced UNLV would be one of four sites to host the 2016 presidential debates. The UNLV debate is scheduled at the Thomas & Mack Center, an 18,000-seat arena, on October 19, 2016.

UNLV officials partnered with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to bid on hosting a debate, and the authority allocated $4 million to pay for the event, which is expected to attract 800 delegates and 3,500 reporters and generate $50 million in publicity for Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Review Journal reported.

Las Vegas must pay a $1.95 million fee to host the event and $2.05 million for production costs, the Review Journal reported.

At least one gaming official sees the presidential debate as an opportunity to educate the next president and other politicians on the benefits of the gaming industry.

“UNLV offers the ideal setting for educating presidential candidates about today’s modern casino gaming industry,” American Gaming Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman said in a statement.

“The university serves as a training grounds for a diverse range of careers we provide not just in Nevada, but in 40 states across the country,” Freeman said. “We’re confident that many of the students candidates encounter on campus next fall will offer proof of casino gaming providing a path to the middle class for people of all backgrounds and experiences.”

Maybe not so coincidentally, Freeman’s predecessor, Frank Fahrenkopf Jr. is one of the two bi-partisan leaders of the Commission on Presidential Debates. Fahrenkopf was head of the Republican Party in the 1980s when Ronald Reagan was president. He helped to found the commission before the 1988 election and has been the Republican leader of that organization since then. This will be the first time Las Vegas has ever hosted a presidential debate sponsored by the commission.

A local committee comprised of 16 public officials and casino and business officials put together the winning bid for the 2016 presidential debate and they say the event validates Las Vegas as a business center as well as a resort destination, while emphasizing the state’s importance in the presidential election.

“I think it shows recognition that Nevada is a state with great political diversity and it’s a natural place for a debate,” committee member and R&R Partners CEO Billy Vassiliadis told the Review Journal. “We’ve already had more than our share of presidential hopefuls and most of the leading candidates here, so they know Nevada’s importance.”

Nevada is considered a swing state for the 2016 presidential election, and Las Vegas is scheduled to host Republican and Democratic party debates as well as the presidential election debate.

A debate among Democrat candidates is scheduled October 19 at Wynn Las Vegas.