06/02/2006 12:00AM

Vegas loses anti-terrorism funding

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According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, the Las Vegas visitor count for 2006 will exceed 39 million people, an increase over last year's record of 38.5 million tourists. Las Vegas is the number one tourist destination city in the country.

The Homeland Security Department has listed 11 American cities to be eliminated for 2007 from funding to defend against terrorism. One of the 11 cities is Las Vegas. What is wrong with this picture?

No disrespect to some of the other 10 cities under the microscope, which include San Diego, Tampa, Phoenix, Oklahoma City, Baton Rouge, and Toledo. But eliminating anti-terrorist funding to Las Vegas doesn't make any sense.

For 2006, a large group of seemingly innocuous cities will receive more money than Las Vegas, such as Jacksonville, Tampa, Kansas City, Charlotte, Omaha, Portland, and Milwaukee.

To be a terrorist target is not something one aspires to. It's a lousy list to be on. But the world is what it is nowadays.

Las Vegas represents a part of America that has gone over the top. In a big way. And if the bad guys want to harm the image of America, unfortunately the city of "bigger is better" is on their radar.

For example, 15 of the 20 largest hotels in the world are in Las Vegas. They are: 1) MGM Grand, 2) Luxor, 3) Mandalay Bay, 6) Venetian, 7) Excalibur, 8) Bellagio, 9) Circus Circus, 10) Flamingo, 12) Caesars Palace, 13) Las Vegas Hilton, 14) Mirage, 15) Monte Carlo, 16) Paris, 17) Treasure Island, 19) Bally's, and 20) Wynn Las Vegas.

While a terrorist hit list is not something you want to be on, the reality is the U.S. government is awarding $740 million in grants to cities to defend themselves. So the whole process of getting money has become a political and public relations campaign.

The money comes in handy because it supplements local and state support for police, fire and emergency services. No city ever has enough money for those protective agencies.

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman is never one to take a slight to his city lying down. But here he has kind of positioned himself in a Catch 22. Goodman has always broadcast that "Las Vegas is the safest city in the world" to visit. Sorry to say, as far as anti-terrorism funding is concerned, the Homeland Security Department agrees with him.

Richard Eng is the turf editor for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and author of "Betting on Horse Racing for Dummies."