Las Vegas’ annual fireworks show to welcome Baby New Year went off without a hitch as thousands of people crowded Las Vegas Boulevard and the Fremont Street Experience to say goodbye to 2007 and ring in 2008.

Tourism officials expected 303,000 people to visit Las Vegas for the celebration. Some of them paid big-ticket prices for star-studded parties at Strip nightclubs. Thousands more braved the chilly air to party on Las Vegas Boulevard and see the fireworks show in the sky and the oddballs on the street.

As the clock struck midnight, John Melton of Memphis, Tenn., screamed toward the sky with his hands in the air as fireworks boomed overhead: "I can’t wait to win some money, party and kiss my wife. If I die today, I’ll be happy."

At the same moment, Reginalld Thomas rained down $5,000 in $1 bills on the crowd at Poetry in the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. Thomas planned to shower the crowd with $100,000 throughout the night.

Crowds were watched by more than 2,300 Las Vegas police officers who lined the five-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard from Russell Road to Sahara Avenue.

Police reported a relatively quiet night along the Strip. As of 1 a.m. Tuesday, police had put only 79 people in jail, about half the number arrested during the previous year’s celebration.

"A lot of folks drink quite a bit and have trouble getting home," Lt. Chris Hoye said. "We’re here to facilitate that a little bit, if you know what I mean."



Palazzo casino opens on Strip

Las Vegas Sands Corp. opened the casino portion of the Palazzo, just in time for the busy New Year’s Eve holiday.

"We received our final permits, and we are able to start the soft opening," Las Vegas Sands spokesman Ron Reese said.

While the casino and lobby areas opened, the Palazzo’s 3,068 hotel rooms were still unavailable. Reese speculated the rooms would open in time for the resort’s Jan. 17 grand opening celebration.

The Palazzo, which is being built to adjoin The Venetian, is the Strip’s first new hotel-casino since the April 2005 opening of Wynn Las Vegas.



Civil, traffic cases climb in 2007

The number of criminal cases filed in Nevada courts held relatively steady during fiscal year 2007, but the year saw double-digit increases in both civil and traffic cases, according to an annual report by the Nevada Supreme Court.

The Associated Press reported that at the Nevada Supreme Court, 2,238 cases were filed during the fiscal year that ended June 30, a 3 percent increase over 2006, the report stated.

The Eighth Judicial District in Clark County, which encompasses Las Vegas, remained the busiest. During the year, 87,534 cases were filed at the District Court level, compared with 83,271 in 2006.


Judge Gates won’t seek re-election

District Judge Lee Gates, who is facing a complaint that he misused campaign contributions, said he will not run for re-election this year.

In a statement read by his executive assistant, Delois Williams, Gates said he is stepping down from his Department 8 seat but did not say why he is choosing not to run.

Gates was appointed to the bench in 1991 and has served as chief judge.


Regents to weigh budget cut plan

Students, faculty and staff will bear much of the burden of 4.5 percent budget cuts to accommodate Gov. Jim Gibbons’ requested spending curbs.

Under the plan, which regents can approve on Monday, students at every institution, with the exception of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the Nevada State College, could see per-credit fee increases starting in the fall.

Some faculty and administrative staff could see their merit pay for the 2008-09 fiscal year cut in half.

The moves would save the system roughly $9.5 million, or more than 16 percent of the estimated $57 million it needs to save during the next year and a half.



Tax petitions draw legal challenges

A proposed 20.2 percent gaming tax is too much for Nevada casinos to accept without a fight.

The Nevada Resort Association filed legal challenges against two petitions being circulated by Southern Nevada lawyer Kermitt Waters that would allow voters to decide whether to triple the state’s current 6.75 percent gaming tax.

In the challenges, the gaming industry states that the petitions would turn the power to set gaming tax rates in Nevada over to politicians in other states, and that represents taxation without representation.

Under the petitions, the gaming tax rate in Nevada would be set at the average maximum rate charged for gaming in the 11 other states with casino gaming.

Then, every year, the Nevada rate would be modified by the state treasurer to reflect changes in the average rate charged in those other states.




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