Had a recent legislative bill passed, the prospects of gambling expansion state-wide were likely. This last November members of the Lakewood council and city staff attended the regional meeting of the Association of Washington Cities and anticipated the latter’s support of “local control over gambling” at the legislature. But House Bill 2873 wasn’t about Lakewood gaining control over gambling. It was rather about giving gambling control.
I testified against this bill before the House Labor and Commerce Committee this past Wednesday. The bill had four major flaws. One was the 10-year-no-repeal rule. The bill would have tied the city’s hands while giving a free-hand to the casinos for an entire decade. A second reiterated the State Gambling Commission as having sole authority to change the scope of a gambling license. And given recent proposals for expanded gambling before that Commission, as well as intentions by representatives of the casinos to reintroduce slots, the city would have had no say in these matters. Still a third provision of the bill would have allowed existing casinos to relocate within the city.
But the fourth, and fatal, flaw was the very real potential for back-door entrance of gambling into cities state-wide that have already banned gambling, as stated at the hearing by Amy Hunter, Licensing Director for the State Gambling Commission. It is exactly for that reason that the tribes have successfully opposed similar bills the last eleven years. And they have prevailed again.
Hunter warned that passage of this so-called ‘control’ bill could easily mean out-of-control gambling expansion. We are told now that Lakewood wrote this bill. So given the damage this bill allegedly would have caused, what citizen, family and community values does this bill reflect, and why would Lakewood write it, much less support it?
David Anderson (253-988-2536)
City of Lakewood Communications Director Jeff Brewster (253-983-7761) responds:
After reading David Anderson’s letter about House Bill 2873, it is evident that there is some confusion on the subject. This bill was sponsored by Representative Steve Conway and supported by the Association of Washington Cities (AWC) and the City of Lakewood among others. It intended to give local governments the ability to limit and potentially reduce the number of mini-casinos within their jurisdictions. At this time, cities can either completely ban or allow mini-casinos. State law is not flexible on this matter and does not respect local control.
This issue has been discussed by the Legislature for over a decade. It impacts local governments across the state, not just Lakewood. To shape this bill, multiple stakeholders worked with Rep. Conway. While the City of Lakewood participated in the process, we were one voice of many. Unfortunately, stakeholders could not agree to key language, so this bill is effectively dead for 2010. The encouraging news is that for the first time, all those who have sparred over this legislation in the past have agreed to sit down before the 2011 session to hammer out their differences. For better or worse, changing state law often requires a large investment in time and patience. The City of Lakewood will not quit until we obtain authority to limit mini-casinos.
The “10-year no repeal rule” that Mr. Anderson objects to is not something that Lakewood suggested. Nonetheless, it seems only fair to provide a reasonable period of stability once locally elected bodies make a far reaching legislative decision. Furthermore, Lakewood has never supported the ability of mini-casinos to move wherever they want. We do not want mini-casinos in neighborhoods, our central business district, or near churches or schools. If we can freeze our existing card rooms where they are now, we can satisfy those concerns.
Lakewood leadership disagrees with Mr. Anderson that mini-casinos should be immediately banned. Nonetheless, the City believes that less is better with regard to this industry. That is why the Council has stated, and recently reaffirmed as a matter of policy, that it wants to limit gambling in Lakewood. The Council also recognizes that the outright prohibition of these legal businesses that have invested millions in private capital is not something a majority of our citizens is inclined to support.
In closing, we would like to take this opportunity to invite Mr. Anderson to discuss future gambling legislation with the City. We would like to better understand his objections to limiting gambling in Lakewood. In turn, he may be less inclined to travel to Olympia to testify against legislation overwhelmingly endorsed by Lakewood’s elected leadership. Such an outcome could be a true “win-win.”