A proposal to allow certain kinds of gambling in unincorporated Pierce County apparently died Monday in a County Council committee.
The council’s rules committee voted to table a proposal that would allow “social” card games in commercial businesses. Councilman Dick Muri, R-Steilacoom, said nonprofit groups already can host such games. And he said another form of gambling – pull tabs – also is legal.
“There is this concept that we don’t allow gambling in Pierce County,” Muri said at Monday’s meeting. “But we do.”
But other council members expressed concern that the proposal under consideration would permit local businesses to operate card rooms with up to 15 tables.
“To me, it looks an awful lot like a casino,” said council Chairman Roger Bush, R-Graham.
Muri proposed the measure to permit card games to address the concerns of a business – Walt’s Tavern of McKenna – that until recently hosted regular poker games.
The tavern had a license from the Washington State Gambling Commission to host the games, which were not banked by the tavern. Regular customers played against each other and brought their own money.
Lorna VanFleet, the acting manager at Walt’s, told the committee anywhere from six to 20 people participated in the games.
VanFleet said the games caused no problems. And council attorney Jeff Cox confirmed the sheriff’s department had responded to few complaints at Walt’s in recent years, and none of those were gambling-related.
Walt’s lost its gambling license when state officials realized it was in unincorporated Pierce County, where such games are prohibited under local law.
Muri proposed legalizing social card games at local businesses. But under state law, the county would also be forced to legalize much bigger card games – up to 15 tables.
Bush said that would open up all of unincorporated Pierce County to those larger games, some with as many as 150 people.
“It would be akin to opening major card rooms and casinos throughout the county,” Bush said. “I don’t think the people of Pierce County would support that.”
Muri said such concerns are overblown. But the committee voted 3-0 to table the matter indefinitely.
In theory, it could be revived in the future. But that’s unlikely. Muri is the only council member supporting the measure.
“This has very, very little support on the council,” Bush said. “It’s not likely to go anywhere.”