Kent considers lifting ban on casinos to cash in on tax revenue

KENT, Wash. -- The city of Kent is considering lifting its ban on casinos to raise revenue, instead of taxing residents.

Right now, the Great American Casino in the Panther Lake neighborhood is Kent's only casino. When this area was annexed into Kent, the city made a deal with the state that all the tax revenue raised here goes to the state, not Kent. But now at least one city councilman wants to change that.

Kent City Councilman Les Thomas says he's been known to sit at the slot machine, but the bigger gamble is coming out against his city's ban on casinos.

Thomas says the Great American Casino gives Kent about $330,000 a year in tax revenue, which under the annexation agreement, the city sends the state.

"We get virtually nothing," Thomas said. "If they were to move out of the Panther Lake annexation area into the regular part of old city, we would get the tax."

But Kent would need to change its gaming ordinance to allow casinos.

A change to city law would allow the Great American Casino to move into a bigger space, add another table, expand its restaurant, and better compete with nearby tribal casinos that don't have table limits or state taxes.

"They have approached the city and the city says we can't do it unless we change the gaming ordinance," Thomas said.

Add three casinos to Kent, and that's roughly $1 million a year that Thomas says could improve parks, pave streets, and increase police. The city is surrounded by neighboring communities that allow gambling.

"It's all around us, the citizens of Kent who love to gamble are going someplace else," Thomas said. "So I looked at it and said, why shouldn't we get that revenue?"

The proposal is in the early stages and probably won't go to full council before May.