Comparing Orlando and Las Vegas: Understanding Industrial Diversification in the Nation's Two Largest Tourist-Led Regional Economies

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Title

Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning


Las Vegas, Nevada and Orlando, Florida are the two largest US metropolitan areas whose principal industry is tourism and exchange tourism services with both US markets and the global economy. Orlando and Las Vegas also benefit from low tax regimes that exclude most personal and corporate income taxes, rely on consumption taxes to fuel significant state level expenditures and lead their respective states in the generation of taxable consumption. There is a contested relation in both instances between these tourist/consumption engines and the state governments whose budgets they support. This is an especially acute situation in Nevada where the Las Vegas regional economy produces the majority of the state's taxable revenue. In the case of Florida, most other metro economies outside of Orlando have diversified sufficiently so that they account for a smaller per capita share of the state's taxation. This paper examine the relationship between the tourist sector in Orlando and Las Vegas and the state governments in Florida and Nevada focusing on the complex ways that both regions manage their local affairs in states that require the majority of their core economy be taxed at a rate higher than any other regional or economic asset. We find that Orlando has done a better job at managing its state relations and securing key assets to advance its regional economy while Las Vegas struggles in its relationship with the state of Nevada. Las Vegas suffers from insufficient local autonomy via taxation to invest in such critical infrastructure as arenas and light rail. We examine the political dynamic in both Florida and Nevada and how that the tourist sector is disproportionately burdened with subsidizing services and investments outside the tourist zones.


Orlando, Las Vegas, Tourist Driven Economy, Consumption, Economic Development, Diversification, Comparative Politics



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