Gambling debated again at City Council meeting

ARLINGTON Gambling was once again a topic of debate at the Dec. 3 Arlington City Council meeting, as citizens and council members discussed a city staff-proposed ordinance to allow house-banked card rooms in certain locations in the citys highway commercial zone, isolated 1,000 feet from existing schools, daycares, churches and synagogues.
Arlington Assistant City Administrator Kristin Banfield explained that the proposed ordinance would also lower the tax rate on card rooms from 20 to 12 percent, but increase that rate by 2 percent each year, until the tax return would return to 20 percent after four years. She elaborated that the proposed 12-percent tax rate was drawn from an average of other cities in Snohomish County that allow such card rooms.
Arlington resident James Mead voiced his concerns about the potential for gambling addiction, citing his own experiences of treating such addictions as a counselor.
It has a harmful effect on families and the community, Mead said. Especially with a growing elderly population thats living on Social Security, gambling addiction is harmful to their lifestyles.
Virginia Hatch once again weighed in against allowing such house-banked card rooms, urging the council to look at why communities that had allowed such gambling before have since disallowed it.
I dont think this is what we had in mind when we talked about branding the city, Hatch said. It doesnt add to our attractiveness.
Hatch worried that gambling might negatively affect area youth and perhaps even turn away the types of residents, jobs or businesses that the community would prefer. She went on to assert that both sides of the argument on gambling had not been adequately represented by city staff.
Weve taken a cultural wrong turn, said Arlington resident Bruce Wargo, who echoed Mead and Hatch as he recalled how his former brother-in-laws gambling addiction became so severe that he began hopping on planes to rack up $40,000 debts in Las Vegas on paydays, and Wargos sister eventually divorced the man.
I grew up in Stanwood, but I chose to live in Arlington, Kathy Carlin said. There were a lot of reasons, but the safety of a small town was one of them. Most of the people who gamble cant afford to, and finances are the number one cause of divorce. Why should we set a bad example for our children?
When Banfield introduced the proposed land use modification, to allow house-banked card rooms in the highway commercial zone, in specific locations such as south of state Route 531 and east of 51st Avenue NE, as well as east of Smokey Point Boulevard and south of 169th Avenue, city of Arlington attorney Steve Peiffle clarified for Mead that such a measure would not allow adult entertainment.
If gambling is such a good thing, then why are we hiding it away? asked Wargo, referring to the isolation of house-banked card rooms from educational and religious institutions. There must be something wrong with it.
Vicki Solla, wife of City Council member Scott Solla, expressed her concerns that Arlington was veering away from being the quaint little town that she and her husband had moved to a few years ago, since she believes that gambling could bring in prostitution and other crime.
Gary Malcolm, one of the businessmen interested in starting a house-banked card room at the bar and grill located on 172nd Street south of the Arlington Municipal Airport, took issue with the mentions of Tacoma fighting the presence of gambling in its midst. Malcolm instead alleged that the local tribes did not want the competition.
Hatch disagreed with Malcolms claims, stating that the reports she had read didnt coincide with what Im hearing here.
Im pretty sure the council knows how I feel about this by now, Scott Solla said. What we have to look at is, if there was no financial benefit, would we still do this? Is this what we really want?
No action was taken at the Dec. 3 City Council meeting. Discussion will resume Dec. 17.

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