“People love to push buttons and hear bells and whistles and to see flashing lights,” argued Joan Mell, attorney for the Amusement Device Operators.
As to flashing lights, some Washington State legislators are seeing red. So does Mell.
Mell’s organization has filed a $15 million claim against the state given some legislators consider the new devices in Lakewood casinos and bars and “proliferating” across the state, as an expansion of gambling.
But, to hear Mell tell it, reviewing a decision already made – allowing what amounts to the precursors of slot machines into non-tribal casinos – is akin to seeing flashing lights in a review mirror while hoping to avoid a ticket:
It’s a little late.
Last July, according to the recent article by Jordan Schrader in the Tacoma News Tribune, the State Gambling Commission allowed the machines and now that 400 have blossomed like wind-blown dandelions state-wide there are lawmakers who want to do a little weeding if not a whole-sale slash-burn.
House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, and House Minority Floor Leader J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, say they “are committed to taking whatever legislative action necessary to pull back this expansion of gambling.”
Faced with (a) $15 million in claims for reneging on what already exists; and (b) the too-little-too-late “directive” to reconsider what they’ve already done; and (c) the relentless pursuit by non-tribal casinos to “level the playing field” with the tribes through acquiring slot machines for which these latest bells-and-whistles-and-flashing-lights are precursors, what are the chances gambling expansion is not in the cards?
It was the Entertainment Industry Association (EIC) in 2004 that pushed the slot machine bill that became Initiative 892, an attempt to place 19,000 slot machines not only in non-tribal casinos across the State of Washington but in bowling alleys, restaurants and taverns.
In the spring of 2008, it was Dolores Chiechi, executive director of the Recreational Gaming Association (RGA) of Washington and sister to Maria who served on the EIC, who stated in a public forum at Lakewood United that the reintroduction of slot machines remained the intent of her organization to enable non-tribal casinos to compete with the tribes.
On September 9, 2008, the Washington State Gambling Commission (WSGC) met in Gig Harbor where representatives of the RGA advocated successfully (passed at the October, 2008 meeting of the WSGC in Spokane) for increased wager limits, more players per table, and Baccarat – a first ever nickels and dimes (actual cash) thrown in a James Bond type game that the Commission had denied in 2003 saying at that time it was an expansion of gambling.
On February 17, 2009 a public hearing was held on House Bill 2162, the so-called ‘zoning-control-of-gambling’ bill. Speaking in favor were then Lakewood City Mayor Doug Richardson; Lakewood Planning Advisory Board Member and Lakewood City Council Candidate (now Deputy Mayor) Jason Whalen; Lakewood Chamber President Linda Smith; Lakewood Businessman Ted Wier; the Kirkland Assistant City Manager; and a representative of the Association of Washington Cities (AWC). Noticeable in the audience but not speaking were Chiechi, and Greg Bakamis previously the manager of the Grand Central Casino in Lakewood who in 2009 entered the corporate office all while holding the position of Lakewood Chamber Executive Board Chairman in which position he convinced the Chamber to convince the Lakewood City Manager to convince the City Council to drop the casino tax rate to 11% from a sliding-scale 10-20%.
Three years later on the same date of February 17, in a TNT op-ed, Chiechi advocated for a “limited number of scratch ticket machines” in Lakewood hoping – with the emphasis upon “limited” – to alleviate fears of slot-machine proliferation.
In the March 16, 2011 “Daily Olympian”, Chiechi, once again before the legislature, stated “the new video-slot machine proposal her group is proposing would be accommodated by casinos in Lakewood.”
But now, per proponents, the slot machines are not slot machines. They’re games of skill.
Says so on the machines themselves – “Olympic Skill.” Ditto that “with a similar machine in the bar at Lakewood’s Burs Restaurant – United Skill of America.”
Evidently a duck is not a duck if you say it’s not a duck.