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Clark County lottery ranks applicants for short-term rental licenses

Updated March 30, 2023 - 7:40 pm

Clark County on Wednesday oversaw a lottery to rank the applicants it will consider to operate short-term rentals, although an association of rental operators called the exercise unnecessary.

During a closed-door meeting broadcast on public television and streamed online, the 1,306 applications received during a six-month period were placed through a “random number selector.”

It was not immediately clear how many licenses Clark County will issue, although it has decided it won’t be more than 1 percent of the “housing stock.”

Licensing the industry will allow homeowners to list their homes located in unincorporated Clark County for temporary lodging through websites such as Airbnb and Vrbo. County officials estimated at one point that as many as 10,000 homes were being rented without permits.

The lottery — which used unique numbers assigned for each application — was conducted by Smartplay International Inc., while the Baker Tilly U.S. LLP consulting firm certified the results.

The drawing took place despite a District Court-issued preliminary injunction that ruled that certain provisions of the ordinance that regulates the rentals were vague and unconstitutional.

The Greater Las Vegas Short-Term Rental Association, which sued the county last year, this month petitioned the Nevada Supreme Court to rule on constitutionality of the ordinance. The group represents about 700 county homeowners.

While District Court Judge Jessica Peterson didn’t rule the entire county ordinance unconstitutional, Clark County is moving to amend the parts that were struck down.

A public hearing was scheduled for Tuesday’s county commission meeting, according to the agenda.

“The District Attorney’s Office believes the motion was incorrectly granted in part and is appealing certain issues,” reads the item, requested by District Attorney Steve Wolfson. “However, there are a few issues with the code that can be clarified to comply with the Court’s order without filing an appeal, which this ordinance will address.”

The Nevada Legislature last session legalized short-term rentals, reversing a county ban. The practice already is regulated in Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Henderson.

Jacqueline Flores, president and director of the association, told the Review-Journal that the drawing was a waste of taxpayer money since the number of applicants fell short of the 1 percent figure.

Flores noted that the same thing happened in San Diego, which late last year canceled a similar lottery due to lack of demand.

“It is important to highlight that the Clark County Short Term Rental Lottery today will serve no purpose other than to merely establish the order in which applications will be reviewed by the County staff, the association wrote in a news release. “This is not what will ultimately determine who will get a license.”

The release continued: “There are still several requirements and restrictions that applicants will still be subjected to, even after being selected by the ‘lottery.’ It is as if the County is making it up as it goes.”

The ranking system could, for example, determine who gets a license in case there is a distance-requirement conflict, a county spokesman confirmed.

But Flores said the association had advocated for an initial first-come, first-served process similar to that implemented by the other Southern Nevada municipalities.

Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at rtorres@reviewjournal.com. Follow @rickytwrites on Twitter.

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