Article  |  Volume 1 | 2009-2010

Sparks Nugget. State Tax Exemption of Food Used by Casinos for Comped Meals

by Steve Johnson
In their search for new sources of revenue, states have legalized and sought to tax many kinds of gaming. Forty-eight of the fifty states of the United States permit one or more types of legal gaming. An important technique in casino and some other types of gaming is giving “comps” – complimentary goods or services – to player-customers. A frequent type of comp is free meals on the casino premises or elsewhere. Gaming establishments also often give free meals to their employees. Comps have been controversial for federal income tax purposes. A recent Nevada case, Sparks Nugget, and related cases illustrate that comps also can present important questions as to sales and use taxes in many states. This Comment describes the Sparks Nugget case and its impact. Thereafter, the Comment describes the approaches to statutory interpretation on which the case turned, and it explores possible additional arguments – one for casinos and one for revenue authorities – that were not fully developed in the decision. In my view, on the grounds argued, the case was correctly decided.
1 UNLV Gaming L. J. 141 (2010)