City Council Denies Gas Station To Expand Into A Casino

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Sioux Falls City Council took up a disagreement between a neighborhood and gas station owner Tuesday night. The owner of Hilltop BP on the corner of 18th and Cleveland says he’s trying to grow his business – by offering video lottery. But, those who live near the gas station fear gaming will drive up crime in the area.

The Planning and Zoning Commission has already given the go ahead to Gary Cone to install video lottery machines. Neighbors appealed that decision, and it’s mainly because of the license that is required to install a casino, which is an on-sale beverage license. That means people can buy and drink alcohol there. Some neighbors voiced to the council that the area surrounding the Hilltop BP is residential, with a lot of kids running around. There’s also a daycare, physically challenged housing, a school and city bus stop nearby. So adding gambling and consuming alcohol won’t mix.

“Every night we hear about all the robberies taking place at casinos, we do not need to bring this element to our neighborhood where children hang out and walk to the store,” says Edee Smorawske who lives in the neighborhood.

“I’m a single mom, we play a lot in the backyard,” adds Katy Jelsma who lives behind the gas station. “There is concern with safety with alcohol and gambling use.”

Gary Cone says he will only keep the casino open till 10, eliminating late night activity. Many neighbors did also come to his defense saying he is a good business man.

“He’d be unique in not being open till 2 a.m.,” says Jerry Scott. “If I want to walk down to the casino and play some games and have a couple beverages, it doesn’t make me a criminal. I don’t think it will be a problem for the neighborhood.”

However, because the proposed casino would be located so close to houses on the east and west sides, the councilors shut down the video lottery service with an 8 to 0 ‘no’ vote.

“I could imagine you have some people outside smoking on occasion, you might have things come along with owning an establishment that aren’t necessarily safe, and I certainly wouldn’t want that 8 feet from my house,” says councilor Marshall Selberg.

This is the second time Cone’s video lottery request has been denied. The first time was 16 years ago.

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