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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Valley casino closes down

Players & Spectators lays off 71, maintains bowling alley

Jack Duncan has owned Players & Spectators, 12828 E. Sprague Ave., since 2003. The casino closed on Aug. 25.  (Lisa Leinberger)
Jack Duncan has owned Players & Spectators, 12828 E. Sprague Ave., since 2003. The casino closed on Aug. 25. (Lisa Leinberger)

The casino at Players & Spectators, 12828 E. Sprague Ave., was closed by its owner on Aug. 25 and the 71 employees that worked there lost their jobs.

Owner Jack Duncan, 82, said the casino has been drowning in regulations and taxes. He said he has had to lend the business money out of his own pocket to keep the place open, a total of $403,000 since Jan. 1.

“I can’t sustain that any longer,” he said.

Duncan has been the owner since 2003.

In a letter to the Spokane Valley City Council, Duncan stated, “The over-burden of state taxes, state regulation, the burden of gambling regulations requiring the same amount of employees whether you had a $50,000 day or a $5,000 day, the economy of today on this business is down 40 percent. This placed us in a very negative operating income every day.”

Duncan said he didn’t like having to lay off his employees, but he is keeping the bowling alley, lounge and restaurant open.

“We had about 101 employees. This leaves about 30,” he said.

On Wednesday morning, a former employee of the casino approached Duncan and told him it had been a pleasure to work there.

“It’s not a pleasure to tell him, ‘Son, you don’t have a job anymore,’ ” Duncan later said.

He also said he feels the burden of regulations and taxes falls mainly on privately-owned card rooms as compared to the larger tribal casinos.

“We’re taxed to the hilt,” he said. He also said private casinos are barred from having slot machines, the most profitable games in casinos.

“I’m kind of bitter,” Duncan said.

He doesn’t want this closure to be permanent, but said he has to work with the regulatory departments to do so.

“I am trying to get relief from the regulatory bodies in order to re-open as quickly as possible the casino and re-instate the employees,” his letter to the council said. “I have to have the city taxes reduced and a one- to two-year suspension of the city tax and a forgiveness of the already owed 10 percent tax that will be due soon for the months of July and August.”

Ken Thompson, finance director for the city of Spokane Valley, said gambling taxes are 10 percent of the gross for card rooms. The letter from Duncan was hand delivered to the city on Thursday.

“We haven’t had a chance to review it yet,” Thompson said.

Gambling taxes are collected from the three casinos in the city on a quarterly basis and Thompson said the city receives about $300,000 to $400,000 annually.

Thompson said it was still too early to know what the impact of the closure will mean for the city.

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