City Council looking to regulate casinos

If you think there are too many casinos in Billings, you're right. The city was informed that Billings has 33 more gaming licenses than the state's mandated quota.

According to a memo from the Planning and Community Services Department, the State Department of Revenue Alcohol and Beverage Control Division informed City staff that no new gaming licenses will be allowed in Billings except for veteran or fraternal organizations like the Elks. A new law from the 2017 state legislature special session says the total number of gaming licenses is fixed at 113 in Billings. 

"The image issue is definitely part of this, we've heard the council say that like gosh it seems like there's so many and they're everywhere, says Wyeth Friday, Director at the Planning and Community Services Department for the City of Billings and Yellowstone County. 

The council conducted a work session on September 17th about casinos and will have another one on December 3rd to explore options to regulate growth of casinos in Billings. Wyeth Friday  is in charge of finding research on the issue for City Council. 

"Aside from you know having changing zoning districts where they weren't allowed also maybe look at a separation distance from residential areas not just parks and churches and schools," said Friday. 

New zoning districts and distance separations would not force existing casinos to move or close down, but if a casino wanted to move their location or sell their license, that casino would have to follow the new zoning regulations according to Friday.

Another option for the city mentioned in the report is to regulate the type of signage these businesses can use to help change the city's image. 

"It may be they have to be smaller, or you know different lighting requirements and that can change kind of the perception of people in the community that are like, 'oh my gosh there's you know so many casinos here', there might be still quite a few casinos here, but it may not feel like that when you drive around town," added Friday. 

The report estimates that the estimated total net revenue gaming businesses collect in Billings annually is $83.3 million and the total amount of taxes paid in Billings from these casinos is $12.5 million. 

KULR-8 spoke with a couple of local casino managers and they both said the same thing, you can talk about the city's image all you want, but it is clear that casinos are bringing in plenty of money for themselves and the state. 

Friday said if the city does decide to change signage regulations, those changes will effect all commercial businesses, not just those with casinos. 

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