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Bellingham Opposes Washington State Video Poker Plan

26 November 2002

BELLINGHAM, Washington – As reported by the Bellingham Herald:"Expanded use of video poker machines could bring millions to cash-strapped state government, but the Bellingham City Council opposes the idea.

"The issue came up Monday at a council committee meeting when Richard Little, the city's government relations director, gave council members an overview of the upcoming legislative session.

"Little predicted that statewide legalization of video poker machines will get a serious look from state lawmakers scrambling to close a $2 billion budget shortfall without raising taxes.

"…If the gaming industry gets its way, the machines - similar to slot machines - could be in every bar and bowling alley in the state, Little said. Oregon already allows that kind of wide use of the machines, but in Washington, only tribal casinos can legally operate them, he added.

"City Council members indicated they took a dim view of relying on gambling to pay for government, and they expressed fears that expansion would place new burdens on law enforcement. Council member Louise Bjornson added that video poker machines would be an unwelcome presence in many Bellingham neighborhoods.

"…Expansion of video poker is already getting vocal opposition from the state's Indian tribes. In Whatcom County, the Nooksack Tribe and Lummi Nation both operate casinos that use the machines.

"…State Rep. Jeff Morris, D-Mount Vernon, is an advocate of expanded video poker. The machines could bring the state an estimated $128 million in each two-year budget period, he said. Morris favors following the Oregon model, in which the machines would be operated by the state, and the owners of taverns and other establishments where they are located would get a percentage…"

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