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PORT ORCHARD, WA-The owners of Hank’s Country Inn in Belfair are gambling on the courts to allow them to open a minicasino here.

City officials last month shot down a proposal to put a minicasino in the old Beachcomber Restaurant in the West Bay Shopping plaza on Bay Street. The decision against the minicasino came despite the Port Orchard Planning Commission’s recommendation the previous week to OK the project because it met local zoning standards.

Council members said they rejected the minicasino’s conditional-use application because of environmental concerns and because the applicant didn’t have the proper paperwork.

State law prohibits cities from regulating gaming. Communities can, however, ban minicasinos, and in recent years city officials in nearby Poulsbo, Tacoma and Gig Harbor have done just that. But Port Orchard has not established such a rule prohibiting casinos.

The lawsuit argues the city improperly concluded that the proposed restaurant, lounge and casino would require a conditional-use permit.

Based on that decision, the lawsuit says, the council violated a state law that says a gambling license is valid unless a city prohibits it throughout the city. At the time of the application, there was no prohibition against gambling in Port Orchard. City officials, however, did pass a law outlawing gambling a couple of weeks after the Hank’s controversy.

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