Leaders applaud nearly $3M in homeland security money for Las Vegas

The Strip as seen from Rivea on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, at Delano Las Vegas.

Las Vegas will receive $2.9 million from the Department of Homeland Security to help the area defend itself against terrorist attacks, elected officials and a casino industry group said today.

The counterterrorism funding comes through the department’s Urban Area Security Initiative and is comparable to what the area received last year. Nevada as a whole has been awarded more than $11.2 million in homeland security grant funding, according to Gov. Brian Sandoval’s office.

In addition to the $2.9 million for Las Vegas, Nevada has also been granted $3.7 million from the State Homeland Security Program and $4.5 million from the Emergency Management Performance Grant Program. Sandoval’s office said in a statement that the latter program helps the state put together a “system of emergency preparedness to protect life and property from hazards.”

“These funds are critical to Nevada. They enhance state and local public safety officials’ ability to complete their mission and fulfill their commitment of protecting our state,” Sandoval said in the statement. “The Department of Homeland Security grant programs enhance all levels of government and tribal jurisdictions by improving their ability to ensure the safest environment for our citizens, and millions of tourists visiting the Silver State.”

Las Vegas was not included in the counterterrorism funding program three years ago but was awarded $1 million in 2014 and $3 million last year. The casino industry lobbied the Homeland Security Department to make sure the grant didn’t disappear this year.

American Gaming Association President Geoff Freeman sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson last month outlining why Las Vegas deserved counterterrorism funding, which he called a “critical tool” to prepare for a terrorist attack or “catastrophic incident.” In the letter, Freeman said Las Vegas had “many unique characteristics and current vulnerabilities,” including its economically vital casinos, the huge volume of tourists who visit the area each year and the frequent amount of high-profile special events held here, among other factors.

Word of this year’s $2.9 million in funding for Las Vegas drew praise from Sen. Harry Reid, Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Dina Titus.

“This critical grant will assist law enforcement to prepare, recognize and thwart any activities that jeopardize our visitors or residents,” Titus said in a statement. “Not only is personal safety an issue, but our economy depends on maintaining a secure environment where people can live, work and play.”