There is significant interest in the anti-gambling initiative circulating within Lakewood that would prohibit card room (mini-casinos) in the City. As the City Manager, it is not my place to argue the merits of this initiative, but in light of various comments and questions I have read or heard firsthand from Lakewood citizens, I must clarify several points.
First, I am hearing anecdotally that some signature gatherers are misrepresenting what the initiative would mean for Lakewood. For example, one citizen said she was told the initiative would only prohibit new gambling in neighborhoods and would not affect existing businesses. Clearly that is not the case.
Our citizens should be clear that the City is intent on obtaining the authority from the State legislature in 2009 to zone gambling establishments, and that is on our list of legislative priorities as well as that of the Association of Washington Cities. This legislation came very close to being accomplished in the past; it succeeded in one house, but ran into obstacles in the other which appear now to have been overcome. I have not heard anyone publicly argue against cities having the right to zone and limit the number of card rooms.
The City Council recently adopted Ordinance 472 as an interim measure to limit by square footage size limitations new eating and drinking establishments until such zoning authority is granted.
Another misconception is that Lakewood has more card rooms than any non-tribal jurisdiction in the State. The fact is that six other jurisdictions have as many or more (Tukwila, La Center, Everett, Kennewick, King County, Shoreline) than Lakewood‚Äôs four. Two Lakewood card rooms have closed this year due to either mismanagement or competition and no new gambling businesses seem interested in filling that void.
It is also a fact that Lakewood‚Äôs mini-casinos have generated very few calls for police service; they do a good job maintaining order.
Finally, if this initiative is successful and gets on the November ballot, the City of Lakewood will have no choice but to develop two parallel budgets this fall. The base budget would factor in gambling revenue while the other would need to factor in a $2.8 million decrease. This loss does not include any potential liability of the City in closing these establishments in response to the ban if it‚Äôs enacted. The City Council, of course, will make the final decisions about which city services to cut to balance such a budget.
Andrew E. Neiditz
City of Lakewood
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