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Phoenix council will consider social gaming

The Phoenix City Council will consider approving an ordinance Monday that would allow social gaming in the city.

The council unanimously passed a first reading of the ordinance at its Sept. 5 meeting and will consider passing it on second reading after hearing from the public. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. Monday at 1000 S. B St.

Ron Teston approached the council about establishing a social-gaming operation that would feature poker in the Shoppes at Exit 24. Oregon law allows the activity if authorized by local government.

“I’m waiting for the council approval,” said Teston, who has yet to sign a lease for space. “I’m a business partner. I’m not the poker end of it.”

Under state rules, businesses may not gain any financial benefit from the gaming, but may make money by charging an admission fee to the site and providing services such as food and beverages.

Provisions in the ordinance would allow city police access to the establishment any time it is open, prohibit participants younger than 21 and require that it be located at least 250 feet from residential zones or legal residences and 1,000 feet from other social-gaming sites.

Another provision stipulates that non-English speakers would be allowed to participate in social gaming, but that the establishments are not required to allow non-English speakers in the same game with solely English-speaking individuals.

Teston told the council that Nevada gaming facilities don’t have to accommodate non-English speakers. But an audience member responded to that, and council asked that the provision be included for non-English speakers to participate in social gaming.

Due to location restrictions, social-gaming operations would be confined to areas that are nearly identical to those legal for marijuana shops, Interim City Manager Dave Kanner told the council Sept. 5. Phoenix has one cannabis store in the Shoppes at Exit 24 and another on Highway 99.

Teston, who was born and raised in Ashland, spent 37 years in Nevada, where he worked in casino security and surveillance. He was a pit boss and worked in other gaming roles.

“I’m not looking for a major business. I’m just looking for a neighborhood shop,” said Teston. During travels in California, Teston said, he has seen a mix of neighborhood operations and larger gaming establishments

Social-gaming operations in Portland and California charge participants $15 per hour, said Teston, but the fee would be lower in Phoenix. In social gaming, a host at each table is the dealer and makes revenue from tips. Dealers typically make from $20 to $50 per hour through tips, said Teston.

Teston had been involved with Valley Auto Consignment and ran a U-Haul rental operation. He has closed the U-Haul operation and said he plans to surrender his state auto dealer license in the next couple weeks.

A bingo parlor was formerly located in the Shoppes at Exit 24, said Mayor Chris Luz. The parlor was run as a fundraiser to supply Phoenix High School’s marching band with new uniforms.

“It’s similar, and there were no problems,” said Luz. “I don’t see any negatives with social gaming there.”

— Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwriter @gmail.com.