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Washington govs state case against gaming

Feb 18, 2003 3:27 AM

While gambling continues to grow nationwide, the state of Washington still has fears on the legislative level of turning into another Nevada.

The Seattle Times reported last week that a state political action committee wants to block legislation that would allow thousands of electronic slot machines to be placed in bars, bowling alleys, restaurants and mini-casinos.

"We are doing it because we don’t want to see gambling expanded by anybody," said Booth Gardner, one of five former Washington governors opposed to gaming. "We feel for the state to raise money in that fashion is shortsighted. The consequences downstream outweigh any benefit," Gardner said.

The political heavyweights are engaged in verbal battle with the state’s tribes, who through lengthy court victories have gained a monopoly on the 18,900 slots in the Washington market.

"We’d be doing this if the tribes weren’t involved," Gardner said. "I don’t want those things (electronic slots) to be everywhere you turn in Washington. I’d draw the line before accepting the revenue."

Conn pro keno

Tax officials in Connecticut are not opposed to having keno placed in state dog tracks, so long as the gaming doesn’t include bingo.

The officials told lawmakers last week in Hartford that the Plainfield Greyhound Park might be a good place to play keno, which involves betting on randomly selected numbers and could be added to the state’s list of lottery games.

Under a bill sponsored by state Republican Rep. Michael Caron, the games would be taxed each day at 3, 5 or 7 percent. The amount would depend on the total dollars waged.

The tax officials, however, warned that allowing high-stakes bingo at dog tracks would "qualify as an expansion of commercial gaming and would require new laws regarding licensing, prize limits, taxes and other issues.

Detroit casinos dive

The once-thriving Detroit casino industry saw revenues slump for the fourth straight month in January, according to a report in the Detroit News.

The drop marked the industry’s steepest decline ever and the first time all three Detroit gambling halls suffered lower business volumes simultaneously. MGM Grand Detroit, MotorCity and Greektown were down a combined 7 percent from the same period in 2002.

Detroit’s casino cited economically dispirited gamblers cutting back on their wagering as a major reason for the losses. Cross-river rival Casino Windsor said its business was flat in January and last December. However, Windsor officials say tighter border security is starting to bring more people into the casino.

10% tax not bad

Roger Wagner, president of Horseshoe Gaming Holding Corp., told The Press of Atlantic City last week that a 10 percent casino revenue tax would be "a lot less than we’re paying."

The Horseshoe casino in Hammond, Ind., pays 35 percent of its gambling revenue to the state, plus an admission tax of $3 per person. Also, four of the nine casinos in Illinois pay a 50 percent tax and a $3 per person admission tax.

New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey wants to hike the casino revenue tax from 8 to 10 percent. Only two states among the 11 with commercial casinos have a lower gaming tax than New Jersey’s combined rate of 9.25 percent.