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House Rejects Bid For Anchorage Casino

The state House, in a tie vote, has rejected a bill being pushed to let a failed state-owned Anchorage seafood plant be turned into an international casino.

The bill, pushed by well-known Anchorage gambler Perry Green with the help of the Capitol’s top lobbyists, failed Saturday on a vote of 19-19.

It takes 21 votes for a bill to make it out of the House and over to the Senate, where there is even stronger opposition to Green’s push for a casino.

But Green, a veteran of events like the World Series of Poker, isn’t folding his cards. Reconsideration of the vote is scheduled to come up in the House on Monday, and Green will attempt to change some minds. There also were two lawmakers absent from Saturday’s vote, and it’s a good bet Green will be paying them a visit.

"I’m hopeful on reconsideration that we’ll get the necessary votes," he said. "I just hope I can convince some people this is a good business."

The bill would create a state gaming commission that would have the power to give a license to a single casino in Anchorage. Green is pushing the bill to further his bid to turn the former Alaska Seafood International Plant off Raspberry Road into the state’s first casino.

The $50 million, 202,000-square-foot plant was built with state money in the 1990s and presented as an effort to diversify Alaska’s economy. But the fish plant flopped, and now the state is shopping for a new tenant.

Normally, a bill doesn’t reach the House floor for a vote unless legislative leaders are sure it’s going to pass. But clearly in this case there weren’t firm commitments.

During a break in the debate, Green and his high-priced stable of lobbyists collared legislators on their way to and from the bathroom. The lobbyists, big Capitol guns like Joe Hayes, Ashley Reed, Wendy Mulder and Kate Tesar, scrambled to figure out who was on their side.

After the proposal failed, Green wouldn’t say which legislators went back on a commitment to support the bill. He’s running out of time. The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn for the year in just 10 days. And, even if Green can get the bill out of the House, Sen. Gary Wilken, R-Fairbanks, said he doesn’t think it would pass the Senate in time.

Wilken is in a position to know. He is a member of the Senate leadership and is in charge of bills that come before the powerful Senate Finance Committee, where the gambling bill would be sure to go. Wilken said he is skeptical of the idea of a "glitzy casino in Alaska."

Green, a furrier and landlord by trade, has described the proposed casino as a high-class establishment that would cater to Asian tourists. He is pitching the casino to lawmakers as way to create a lot of jobs and attract more tourists to Alaska. He argues it would bring needed dollars both to the state and the Municipality of Anchorage.

The state hasn’t been able to come up with a good estimate on the dollars the casino would bring, because the bill doesn’t set out specifics for what it would look like.

Read the entire article at: Anchorage Daily News 

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