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Analysts: Washington Gambling Industry Could Grow More

19 October 2004

WASHINGTON – As reported by the Seattle Times: "Slots by the thousands, pull tabs in corner bars. Lottery tickets at convenience stores, bingo and Reno nights at local charities. Horse racing at the track, or on the Internet, if you prefer. Card games, just like in Vegas. Even kiddie-style roulette for the little ones.

"Gambling is booming in Washington, with an estimated 7.8 million players — from within the state and beyond — generating more than $1.5 billion this year in net receipts, the money left after prizes paid to players.

"Yet profits aren't nearly as fat as they could be, some analysts say. With Washington's population and income, the industry is ripe for expansion but for one little problem: the rules.

"Washington allows the big action — the highest betting limits, the most card tables, the widest variety of games and, the most enticing lure of all, electronic slot machines — only in Indian casinos. Backers of Initiative 892, one of the biggest proposed expansions of gambling in state history, hope to change that by breaking the tribes' monopoly.

"…Washington is the only state in the country that doesn't levy a gambling tax. It puts no limits on the number of operations any single gambling interest can run. It imposes no residency requirement on gambling-license holders.

"Increasingly, Washington is attracting interest from investors outside the state and the country, who have at least part-ownership in 38 percent of the mini-casinos now licensed in Washington. That's up from zero before 1997, when the Legislature first allowed house-banked cardrooms, also called mini-casinos, in which card players bet against the house.

"…A broad coalition is fighting the measure, from former Washington governors to prosecutors and pastoral leaders. They say Washington already has enough gambling — and they fear slots on their doorstep…"

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