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Deja Vu Showgirls of Las Vegas, LLC v. Nevada Dep't of Taxation

Supreme Court of Nevada

September 18, 2014

DEJA VU SHOWGIRLS OF LAS VEGAS, LLC, A NEVADA LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY, D/B/A DEJA VU SHOWGIRLS; LITTLE DARLINGS OF LAS VEGAS, D/B/A LITTLE DARLINGS; K-KEL, INC., D/B/A SPEARMINT RHINO GENTLEMEN'S CLUB; OLYMPUS GARDEN, INC., D/B/A OLYMPUS GARDEN; SHAC, LLC, D/WA SAPPHIRE; THE POWER COMPANY, INC., D/B/A CRAZY HORSE TOO GENTLEMEN'S CLUB; AND D. WESTWOOD, INC., D/B/A TREASURES, Appellants,
v.
NEVADA DEPARTMENT OF TAXATION; NEVADA TAX COMMISSION; AND THE STATE OF NEVADA BOARD OF EXAMINERS, Respondents

Page 393

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 394

Appeal from a district court summary judgment rejecting a facial challenge to the constitutionality of Nevada's Live Entertainment Tax and denying injunctive relief as to the enforcement of that tax. Eighth Judicial District Court, Clark County; Elizabeth Goff Gonzalez, Judge.

Affirmed.

Lambrose Brown and William H. Brown, Las Vegas; Shafer and Associates and Bradley J. Shafer, Lansing, Michigan, for Appellants Deja Vu Showgirls of Las Vegas, LLC; Little Darlings of Las Vegas; K-Kel, Inc.; Olympus Garden, Inc.; The Power Company, Inc.; and D. Westwood, Inc.

Greenberg Traurig, LLP, and Mark E. Ferrario and Brandon E. Roos, Las Vegas, for Appellant SHAC, LLC.

Catherine Cortez Masto, Attorney General, Blake A. Doerr and David J. Pope, Senior Deputy Attorneys General, and Vivienne Rakowsky, Deputy Attorney General, Carson City, for Respondents.

DOUGLAS, J. We concur: Gibbons, C.J., Pickering, J., Hardesty, J., Parraguirre, J., Cherry, J., Saitta, J.

OPINION

Page 395

BEFORE THE COURT EN BANC.

DOUGLAS, J.:

In this opinion, we consider whether, on its face, Nevada's Live Entertainment Tax violates free speech rights under Article 1, Section 9 of the Nevada Constitution or the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. We also address whether the district court was required to entertain appellants' as-applied challenge to the Tax when they failed to exhaust their administrative remedies on that issue. Regarding appellants' facial challenge, we conclude that the Tax does not violate the First Amendment as related to speech ( i.e., dance), and we therefore affirm the district court's summary judgment as to this issue. As for appellants' as-applied challenge, we hold that appellants were required to exhaust their administrative remedies on this issue before seeking relief in the district court, and thus, we affirm the district court's dismissal of the as-applied challenge for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

BACKGROUND

In 2003, the Nevada Legislature enacted the Live Entertainment Tax, which imposes an excise tax on certain business transactions completed at facilities providing " live entertainment." See NRS 368A.200(1). " 'Live entertainment' means any activity provided for pleasure, enjoyment, recreation, relaxation, diversion or other similar purpose by a person or persons who are physically present when providing that activity to a patron or group of patrons who are physically present." NRS 368A.090(1). Nevada's Live Entertainment Tax (NLET) imposes a ten-percent tax on any amounts paid for admission and for food, refreshments, and merchandise provided within a live-entertainment facility having a maximum occupancy of less than 7,500 persons. NRS 368A.200(1). When a live-entertainment facility has a maximum occupancy of at least 7,500 persons, however, NLET only imposes a five-percent tax on admission charges. Id.

At its inception, NLET provided ten exemptions dependent on, inter alia, the location and size of a facility providing live entertainment, the entity status of a provider,[1] and, in several instances, the type of entertainment provided.[2] NRS 368A.200(5) (2003). Among other things, the 2003 version of NLET included an exemption for " [l]ive entertainment that [was] not provided at a licensed gaming establishment if the facility in which the live entertainment [was] provided [had] a maximum seating capacity of less than 300." NRS 368A.200(5)(d) (2003). The initial statutory scheme also provided an exemption for gaming establishments " licensed for less than 51 slot machines, less than six games, or any combination of slot machines and games within those respective limits, if the facility in which the live entertainment [was] provided [had] a maximum seating capacity of less than 300." NRS 368A.200(5)(e) (2003).

Page 396

Since its enactment, the Legislature has amended NLET's provisions on multiple occasions. In 2005, the Legislature, among other things, created eight exceptions to NLET's definition of " live entertainment." [3] NRS 368A.090(2)(b) (2005). Additionally, the Legislature changed the maximum seating capacity language in NRS 368A.200(5)(d)-(e) (2003) to " maximum occupancy," and reduced that provision's occupancy from 300 to 200. NRS 368A.200(5)(d)-(e) (2005). The Legislature also added six new exemptions, including exempting certain National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) events from being subject to the tax. NRS 368A.200(5)(k)-(p) (2005). Two years later, the Legislature added another exemption from the tax for professional minor league baseball contests, events, and exhibitions. NRS 368A.200(5)(p) (2007).[4]

In April 2006, appellants, which are all exotic dancing establishments, filed suit against respondents in the United States District Court for the District of Nevada seeking a declaration that NLET is facially unconstitutional for violating the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, an injunction against its enforcement, and a refund of all taxes paid under the statute. The federal district court later dismissed this action on respondents' motion, concluding that appellants had failed to show that Nevada's state court and administrative systems deprived them of a plain, speedy, and efficient ...


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