Casino decision discussed, tabled again
New Moose lodge in Libby
by KLCB 1230 AM Libby News Radio
February 26, 2008
In a long, two and half hour, impassioned meeting, the Libby City Council listened as members of the 185 residents of the area attempted to convince the Council not to grant a business license to the newest Montana Moose Lodge.
Those who spoke attempted to hang their cause on the proximity of the new Moose Lodge and casino to the Asa Wood school and the effect it will have on children, and on the effect of gambling and alcohol consumption on society.
The Council is concerned about following the law and avoiding a lawsuit if they refuse to issue building and business permits to the Moose Lodge.
Mitch Fahland, the elected lodge governor, told the group the Lodge has been granted a charter by Moose International as Lodge #2671 with 51 members. "This is not just another casino," Fahland said. "It is a Moose Lodge. Yes, there will be video gaming machines", Fahland said. Fahland told the crowd the purpose of the Moose is to return all profits back to the community in the form of charitable contributions to the Moose six-point plan, which includes a children's camp in Illinois, and an assisted living community for Moose members in Florida. "The Moose is very big into helping children and the elderly," Fahland told the group.
The member-only fraternal organization will offer beer and wine. The Moose Lodge is not open to the general public. It will operate legal tavern hours.
A previous Moose Lodge existed in Libby from 1928 until 1993 or 1996, when it dissolved and its building sold to the 4 Square Church. The solid brick building on California Avenue was later razed to enlarge a car lot.
The audience was adamant they do not want any more casinos in the Libby city limits. Any action by the City Council would not prevent more casinos in the adjacent county.
There are already several casinos in close proximity to schools in the area. Lucky Lil's and Harold's are close to the Central School, the Crosscut is close to Asa Wood, and trying to stop this casino may be an abridgement of property rights of shopping center owner Brad Fuller.
City Attorney, Charles Evans, cited several possibilities that could be used as a defense by the Council. Incorporated cities and towns can, under State statute, restrict gambling to specific areas, they can limit the sale of all alcoholic beverages to specific areas, they can refuse to issue the permits if they feel doing so is in the best interest of the community, and they can restrict the establishment of offensive businesses with in the city limits.
Evans pinned the use of all these options to a Montana Supreme Court Case in which the City of Red Lodge successfully rejected a license application by Town Pump after the application had been granted.
But, The Moose Lodge is a legal business, Brad Fuller is the owner of an empty building, which he has a right to lease, and the location meets the legal requirement of the State statute relative to proximity of Asa Wood school.
The Council voted to continue tabling a decision, pending a meeting between the City Attorney, Charles Evans, and shopping center owner Brad Fuller, presumably to resolve Fuller's threat to sue the City, should they refuse to issue the Moose licenses.
A decision may come at the next regular City council meeting in March.
Story by KLCB 1230 AM Libby News Radio, www.todaysbestcountryonline.com