On January 19

Montana: Manhattan Planning Board to reconsider casino request in a meeting next week

Manhattan town, Montana.
Reading time 2:15 min

Manhattan’s Planning Board is set to consider a request from Jackpot Casino Group to open up in the Montana's town once again. The request for the town to change its zoning code would allow Jackpot to establish a casino at 110 S. Broadway, and is set to be heard at the board’s January 19 meeting at 7 p.m., reports Kilgore News Herald.

The potential opening of the Jackpot Casino has long been an issue in the town. In December 2020, the council denied the casino a conditional use permit for the Broadway location, as the town code prohibits a casino from being within 250 feet of a park or residential area

The proposed venue has been in the planning stages for years now, but so far has not seen luck. Other facilities, such as Sir Scott’s Oasis and the Broken Arrow, offer gaming through gambling machines while still being within the town’s code prohibitive parameters. However, their use was grandfathered by the council years before.

Mayor Glen Clements previously suggested for the casino to be placed somewhere else. “I think there are likely locations in town where you can have a casino and not be in violation of that code,” he said in an earlier interview with Belgrade News. “Maybe not on Main Street, but there are other locations.”

Jackpot has asked for a variance to the town code’s rule, alleging that it had placed “a hardship” on the business. The request was ultimately denied by the Planning Board by a 3-2 vote in March 2021.

In a second effort to secure the casino development, Jackpot came before the Planning Board again in November 2021, asking for an ordinance to change the town’s zoning code language. The board voted unanimously to deny said request, further reports Kilgore News Herald. The same request is now set to be made to the board next week.

In the meantime, Jackpot owners have opened a liquor store and small bar at the 110 S. Broadway location, in an effort to preserve their liquor license. It had to be in use by April 21, 2021, or would have otherwise been revoked by the state.

But the casino group is now confident the situation could change and for the casino to be finally allowed. Jackpot representative Bushnell says that the casino is good to go according to Montana law, but the Manhattan city code is “more restrictive.”

According to the representative, Jackpot’s lawyer plans to assert that Railroad Park, which is located within 250 feet of the proposed venue, is actually owned by the railroad and not the town. Thus, Manhattan should not be able to count it as a city park, meaning there would be no violation of the town’s code.

“We want to be an integral part of the community,” said the representative, according to local media. “We sponsor Shakespeare in the Parks, the Spud Fest. We’ve spoken with hockey rink people that want to put a rink in Manhattan. We can sponsor that. But we can’t do that if the city doesn’t let us have a code amendment.”

If approved, Jackpot’s planned casino would open under the name Manhattan Depot, the current name of Jackpot’s liquor store and bar on 110 S. Broadway. The group’s liquor license is under the name of “Manhattan Casino,” but according to Bushnell, the city expressed discomfort with the “casino” name, leading to it being dropped.

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