Don’t bet on minicasinos in Edmonds

By WARREN CORNWALL

Herald Writer

Minicasino owners take heed: Edmonds is off-limits.

The Edmonds City Council has banned gambling businesses in the face of an initiative campaign that could have put the matter to a citywide vote.

"In talking with other citizens during the whole process, I think it became apparent to me that people don’t want that form of gambling in downtown Edmonds," councilman Chris Davis said.

Davis added his vote to a 6-0 approval of the ban last week. Councilman Jim White abstained.

With that decision, Edmonds joined a number of cities in Snohomish County shunning minicasinos, including Marysville, Lynnwood, Mukilteo, Brier and Bothell.

"A lot of cities in the Puget Sound area, particularly King and Pierce County, have adopted prohibitions on card rooms," said Bob Meinig, a legal consultant for the Municipal Research and Services Center, a nonprofit think tank in Seattle.

The bans have been prompted by concerns that minicasinos could attract crime, traffic or further gambling businesses, Meinig said.

The decision marked a victory for councilman Dave Orvis, who led the petition drive to get the minicasino ban on the ballot. Orvis had gathered enough signatures to meet the legal threshold. That meant the initiative would have been put before voters if the council hadn’t approved it.

The ban presents a major barrier to plans by one local business to open a minicasino — a card room allowed to have 15 tables and house-banked betting. Marty’s, a restaurant and bar near the Edmonds ferry terminal, has applied to the state Gambling Commission for a minicasino license.

The restaurant’s landlord, Al Dykes, had lobbied against the ban, arguing a minicasino could bring tax revenue and jobs to the city. Dykes also argued that Orvis had exaggerated the dangers of minicasinos.

Dykes could not be reached for comment Monday.

Though he voted for the ban, Davis voiced dissatisfaction with how the decision was reached. The initiative process left the council little chance to craft its own ordinance, which might better withstand legal challenges, he said.

The timeline also rushed an Edmonds committee studying the potential effects of a minicasino, said Davis, who chaired the committee.

"I don’t believe there was enough public input to this," he said.

But Orvis dismissed that criticism, saying he had broached of a ban to the council in May.

"The city council had plenty of opportunities to pass an ordinance," he said.

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