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Effort to reopen Lakewood minicasino falters

Post by Christian Hill / The News Tribune on April 15, 2011 at 9:31 am with No Comments »
April 15, 2011 9:56 am

The Happy Days Casino is on the market after an effort to reopen the minicasino under a new name collapsed.

Kelco Gaming LLC, represented by Haig Kelegian Jr., a California casino executive, has applied for permits starting late last year to open Lucky Dragonz Casino on the 11500 block of Bridgeport Way Southwest.

Leslie Skelly, who has owned the property for 20 years, confirmed Thursday evening the transaction fell through but declined to discuss specifics. He’s trying to sell the property and said he’s spoken with a few people interested in making it a restaurant. He expressed doubts that a minicasino would open there.

“Right now, the game industry is pretty down so people aren’t interested,” he said.

City officials said that Kelegian wanted to make improvement to the building but ran into problems.

The property has been dealt bad hands for the last several years.

Happy Days’ most recent owner, Douglas Searle, closed the minicasino in Aug. 28. The city revoked its business license two months later for failure to pay more than $35,000 in back gambling taxes.

The prior owner, Jerry Bolser, made headlines when he walked away from Happy Days without paying outstanding gambling taxes or wages to employees.

Kelco Gaming applied on Dec. 21 for a gambling license to operate 12 tables at Lucky Dragonz, according to the Washington State Gambling Commission. The application has been withdrawn.

Lakewood has four other casinos still in business. The city imposes an 11 percent tax on gross receipts and budgets for a total of about $2.8 million a year in gambling taxes, which help pay for basic city services.

Voters rejected a measure in November 2008 to ban minicasions. The city has adopted temporary moratoriums and taken other steps to block new minicasinos from opening, while simultaneously wanting to keep the existing ones open so they continue to provide jobs and generate tax revenue.

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