Gambling In Tacoma

City Considers Zoning Changes


By Michael Pellegrini


With the proliferation of new mini-casinos since the change in Washington’s gambling laws two years ago, the City of Tacoma is now preparing to revise it’s zoning codes.


Under the current zoning laws, mini-casinos are treated basically the same as taverns or cocktail lounges – a legal glitch many perceive as a problem. Bringing the issue to a boil, is the current proposal to site the Monte Carlo Casino downtown next to the Tacoma Children’s Museum – a move opposed by many of the neighborhood’s current residents.


“I don’t know if it’s appropriate or inappropriate,” said Bill Bailey, the Supervisor of the Public Works Land-Use Section, “But that issue was raised.” He said as a means to study the issues, the department will form a Citizen’s Advisory Taskforce to see if changes to the zoning laws are needed. The group will be comprised of gaming industry representatives, as well as citizens from the different neighborhood groups.


But even if the city does end up enacting zoning laws restricting the placement of mini-casinos, they may face a legal battle. “If we do enact more restrictive codes, the city may be challenged by the Gambling Commission,” said Bailey. The problem is that the laws appear to give the Gambling Commission exclusive authority over all gambling businesses.


“We have more authority over where a liquor store goes,” said Theresa Turpin, one of the co-leads who will work with the Citizen Advisory Taskforce. “So much of what we do is controlled by state law. But we probably will have to pass a new zoning ordinance.” According to Turpin, the new codes need to be adopted by October.


“It’s fairly likely some city will end up in a lawsuit over this,” said Amy Patjens, spokesperson for the state Gambling Commission. “The problem is that the legislature didn’t give the commission the power to limit mini-casinos to within 200 feet of a school or whatever.” She said the commission has no authority to deny or limit licenses based on factors such as the proposed location.


According to Patjens, three applications for mini-casinos for the greater Tacoma area have been approved: The Paradise Village Inn, in Parkland; The Great Wall Restaurant, near the Tacoma Mall, and Jimmy G’s, in Lakewood. Six other applications are pending: Luciano’s and CI Shenanigan’s on Ruston Way, the Habana Café and Lounge at 6108 6th Avenue, and the King of Clubs at 8402 S. Hosmer. The Silver Dollar Casino and PJ Pockets have filed applications but have yet to disclose their proposed locations.


Patjens said the original application for a house-banked card-room for the Monte Carlo Casino was withdrawn and applied to the Habana Café and Lounge on April 26, 1999. She said the Monte Carlo still has an application for a conventional card-room license on file with the agency.