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The cost of clean living: City workers in town that straddles the Nevada-Utah border see a HUGE difference in pay on each side of the state line thanks to Silver State’s gambling and weed tax income


In a town that straddles the border between Utah and Nevada, the wages of sin is higher pay for municipal workers.

West Wendover, Nevada is a straight shot west from Salt Lake City, making it the closest destination for residents of Utah’s capital to enjoy casinos, legal recreational weed, and looser liquor laws. 

Although residents consider it one community, the state line bisect West Wendover, a town of 4,600 with five casinos, and Wendover, a town of 1,200 on the Utah side of the border.

Last year, nine of West Wendover’s 82 employees were paid more than $100,000, while only two out of Wendover’s 26 employees made more than $50,000, according to a review of salary records by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

‘They have legal gambling on the west side, which generates a lot of money, ‘ Wendover’s city administrator Glenn Wadsworth told the outlet. ‘Whether it’s fair or not, I don’t make that judgment.’

Wendover Boulevard is seen where it crosses the state line, with Utah on the left and Nevada on the right. City workers on either side see a big difference in their pay

Wendover Boulevard is seen where it crosses the state line, with Utah on the left and Nevada on the right. City workers on either side see a big difference in their pay

West Wendover, Nevada is seen looking across the border from Utah. The town is the closest place to Salt Lake City to enjoy casinos, legal recreational weed, and looser liquor laws

West Wendover, Nevada is seen looking across the border from Utah. The town is the closest place to Salt Lake City to enjoy casinos, legal recreational weed, and looser liquor laws

In 2023, Wadsworth was paid just $41,000, while his counterpart in West Wendover, city manager Chris Melville, earned $170,000.

Melville told the newspaper that due to its casinos, the number of people in West Wendover can swell to 30,000 on the weekend, necessitating a bigger police force and other city services.

Although the two towns view themselves as a single community, municipal services are handled separately for the most part.

In a sign of the unity between the two towns, West Wendover in 1999 got federal approval to switch from Pacific Time to Mountain Time, so the clocks on both sides of the border would match.

It makes West Wendover the only portion of Nevada that is legally in the Mountain Time Zone. 

In the past, residents of both towns have voted to approve the annexation of Wendover into Nevada, so they can unite their city governments and services.

However, the US House resolution permitting Wendover to leave Utah and join Nevada stalled in the Senate in 2002 and did not become law.

The US Constitution requires any change to state borders be approved by both houses of Congress and the state legislatures of the two states in question. 

West Wendover city manager Chris Melville said that due to its casinos, the number of people in West Wendover can swell to 30,000 on the weekend

West Wendover city manager Chris Melville said that due to its casinos, the number of people in West Wendover can swell to 30,000 on the weekend

Just off Highway 80 near the Utah border, the Peppermill Hotel Casino proudly lit their neon sign with a patriotic message in a file photo

Just off Highway 80 near the Utah border, the Peppermill Hotel Casino proudly lit their neon sign with a patriotic message in a file photo

Wendover was established in 1908 as a station stop on the then-under construction Western Pacific Railroad.

It gained fame as the place where the final telephone pole was erected to complete the 3,400-mile transcontinental telephone line on June 27, 1914.

During World War II, Wendover Army Air Field was used as a training base for bomber pilots, including the crew of the Enola Gay, which dropped the first nuclear bomb used in warfare.

The small town’s population has never topped 2,000 on the Utah side.

The first casino on the Nevada side of the state line opened soon after the state legalized gambling in 1931.

Originally known as the State Line Casino, the facility has changed names and ownership and is now known as the Wendover Nugget.

West Wendover grew through the 70s and 80s as a small resort and casino town, but remained an unincorporated place in Elko County.

In 1991, West Wendover officially incorporated under the motto ‘Come Grow With Us.’



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