News

Officials opposed to more gambling

By ERICA JAHN

Staff writer

Gambling and its regulation are expected to be big issues this year as state legislators look for new ways of generating revenue without raising taxes.

But local lawmakers remain opposed to increasing gaming in Federal Way.

At a meeting earlier this month with state Rep. Mark Miloscia and Sen. Tracey Eide of the 30th District, City Council members expressed disapproval of any pro-gaming measures that might crop up in the Legislature this year.

“It really messes up the social fabric of a community,” Councilwoman Mary Gates said. “It makes your human-services numbers go a little sideways, too, because if the money is gambled away, the kids go hungry.”

Councilwoman Linda Kochmar shook her head no when Eide asked whether the city would support any gambling legislation in light of the potential economic boon to cities.

Kochmar called the proposal a “quick fix” that would introduce “enormous other problems.”

Federal Way Police said card rooms and casinos have the potential to attract organized crime, narcotics and other illegal activity, including fraud and forgery, because they bring in significant amounts of untraceable money.

Police officials said it’s difficult to track where and how the cash collected at casinos is spent — and, ultimately, by whom. The difficulties lead police and council members to oppose any increase in gaming altogether.

Assistant city manager Derek Matheson said of the two casinos located in downtown Federal Way, one provides a “huge drain” on city resources, particularly police service.

There are four gaming establishments in Federal Way — Café Arizona, PJ Pockets, New Sonny and Players — that offer gambling and card rooms. All four are taxed 20 percent on gross revenues. P.J. Pockets and Players are on the city’s database of the top 50 employers in the city.

In addition, the city collects gambling taxes from 22 establishments that offer pull tabs and scratch tickets.

Last year, the city collected almost $2 million in gambling tax revenue, which went in the general fund. By law, gambling revenue is used to support public safety.

Federal Way council members pointed out Tacoma will have phased gambling out of its city limits in two years and the city of Lakewood is considering doing the same.

A coalition of non-tribal gaming industry workers, called the Recreational Gaming Association, proposed last year to install 20,000 electronic slot machines across Washington. By taxing the proceeds, the gaming association anticipated raising more than $100 million in new revenue.

Federal Way’s council members opposed the gaming association’s proposal, citing increased crime and the proliferation of social ills associated with casinos and gaming rooms.

Staff writer Erica Jahn can be reached at 925-5565 and ejahn@fedwaymirror.com

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