Gambling tax comes up snake eyes with opponents

"Will Hi-Joy Bowl go belly up if the city of Port Orchard jacks up its gambling tax?Gary Chrey thinks so.“The city has the power to tax and the power to destroy,” said the Hi-Joy Bowl attorney at a city council meeting last week. “If this proposed tax increase happens, then a big part of the community would go away.”Chrey said the actual bowling side of the business doesn’t rake in as much cash as it has in the past, so the business relies heavily on gambling for profit. Pull-tab sales create the steadiest revenue source for the bowling alley, he explained. Chrey also argued that if the proposed tax hike passes, which calls for increasing the pull-tab tax from 3 to 4 percent, then the city will drive Hi-Joy out of business.Another sore point is that the tax is based on gross pull-tab sales, and doesn’t factor in cash prizes and actual net sales.“That’s a thirty-three and one-half percent increase from last year’s rate,” Chrey said. That’s just not fair, he added, considering the the difference between gross and net income can be quite large.Several other tavern and restaurant owners packed city hall last week to vent their frustrations.“Myhre’s loses money on food and makes just a bit on alcohol,” explained Chuck Baya, a statistician speaking on behalf of the downtown restaurant. “Their money comes in mainly from pull tab sales. And, anyway, if you’re going to tax them, then at least tax net sales rather than gross. Tax what they actually make. You can make more money and it’s fairer to the business.”Council member Tom Stansbery queried: “Then what are all the other successful restaurants in South Kitsap doing right?”Meanwhile, Council member Warren Van Zee said he was in favor of heftier gambling taxes that reflected maximum state rates. For pull tabs, that would be five percent. “I am angry with the attitudes here,” said Steve Wilson, owner of the EndZone sports bar. “Some people golf, some people gamble. It’s like you’re looking down your noses at us. It’s no one’s business what people do with their money.”There is no doubt that for many people, pull tabs are a form of entertainment, a way of socializing and escaping job pressures. And, there’s no doubt it can be hard on the wallet.“I sank a whole paycheck in pull tabs once and I learned real quick not to do that again,” said Angela Vieira, a Port Orchard resident. “I’ve seen people sink as much as $500 in pull tabs in one night. There’s no doubt that they are making money on it.”John Geditz plans to stop playing pull tabs anyway, he said, because he is saving for a new place to live. He’s not too overly concerned about the proposed hike.“It’s a waste of money anyway.” Vieira has her own philosophy.“I don’t think the (tax) will hurt them that much because they make too much money off if it already, and if it’s that bad, they can reduce the number of games they offer,” she said.But what if the tax hike either forces taverns, restaurants and Hi-Joy Bowl out of business or out of town?“Then Port Orchard will be sadder than it already is,” Vieiera asserted.In the end, the city council referred the issue back to committee and council members invited interested parties to a special study session on the matter scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Nov. 19 in the City Council Chambers."

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