One by one, they all folded.
Aces. Players and Spectators. Ringo’s.
While there are still plenty of other gambling destinations around in Spokane Valley – 30 at last count – high taxes have forced casinos to either shut their doors or to move out of town to keep business alive.
Mark Calhoun, deputy city manager, laid the cards on the table before Spokane Valley City Council members on Tuesday night, explaining that the city’s 10 percent tax on card games – authorized by the state to offset law-enforcement costs – has had a crippling effect on casinos.
“We’re at a competitive disadvantage,” Calhoun told the council.
By reducing the tax to 6 percent, the city would lose about $178,400 each year. But it would, he said, be taking less than the city of Spokane, which has its tax on card rooms currently at 8 percent.
The 2015 budget had projected Spokane Valley would generate $446,000 from card games.
In September of last year, the council had heard comments from a casino owner who said that the tax was a “significant expense” to his business and had been a large factor in the closure of several gambling establishments in Spokane Valley. Since that time, the city of Spokane reduced its gambling taxes.
The matter was further discussed at the Valley council’s winter retreat, where the option to reduce the tax on card rooms. At that time, consensus was reached that a rate of 6 percent would be appropriate.
“I think we should move ahead with the reduction,” Mayor Dean Grafos said. “I think it would make us more competitive.”
The matter will come back before the council at a future meeting.
In other news, city staffers further stressed to the council that the current ban on future mining operations in Spokane Valley do not affect existing operations, predominantly by Spokane County and Central Pre-Mix. The issue came up during Tuesday’s first reading of findings-of-fact after last month’s public hearing on the issue. The second reading for final approval is scheduled for April 28.