Clarion council doesn’t gamble on mini-casino

For the Clarion News

Although it is unlikely a developer would attempt to locate a mini-casino in Clarion Borough, council on Dec. 5 opted not to wager on the possibility and banned such businesses within the town.

When the state Legislature and Gov. Tom Wolf finally agreed to a revenue plan for a budget they had already passed months before, the package included an expansion of casinos.

The expanded gambling legislation also allowed local municipalities to ban mini-casinos.

However, local municipalities had to approve a banning resolution before Dec. 31. The bans can be rescinded later, but if a municipality does not ban mini-casinos by Dec. 31, they are prohibited from doing so later.

The discussion to approve or reject the resolution dominated council’s monthly meeting.

“I just want to say I’m not for it,” Greenville Avenue resident Cinder Miller told council. “I know people say, ‘Anything to save your town.’ But we don’t want it saved this way.”

Councilman Jason Noto explained what voting on the resolution meant. Resolution 2017-411 pertains to “prohibiting” a casino. Voting in favor of the resolution means upholding standing borough ordinances. Voting against the resolution allows for the possibility of building a casino.

In effect, council members needed to vote “no” to vote “yes” for a casino.

Banning mini-casinos would provide the borough some negotiation leverage should a developer approach the borough about lifting the ban. Clarion Borough also has zoning ordinances that would regulate the location and operation of a casino.

“If we don’t say (yes) now, we don’t have the choice (later),” Noto said in explaining his intent to vote in favor of the resolution.

Councilman Earl Zerfoss asked for clarification of the resolution.

“I want to vote the right way, because I’d like to see (a casino) here,” he said.

Noto stood by his vote.

“I say we keep our opportunities open,” he said.

Noto went on to explain that approval of the resolution meant no gambling could take place in Clarion Borough for the time being. If the resolution were rejected, Noto said council would have no control over the development of future gambling establishments.

Councilwoman Brenda Dede, standing in for council President Carol Lapinto, called for a vote.

The motion came down to a 3-3 count. Council members Rachel Roberts, Dede and Noto voted in favor of the resolution; Zerfoss, Ben Aaron and Keaton MacBeth voted against it.

Clarion Mayor Dan Parker was called on to break the tie. Parker’s “yes” allowed the resolution to be passed.

Dede said she expected further discussion on the subject in future meetings.