MARION -- Still getting his head around his role as Marion's liquor commissioner, Mayor Mike Absher discussed amending the liquor license for the Drury Inn and the "slippery slope" of licensing more gaming establishments.
"I get to learn a lot every day," said Absher, in his first regular meeting as mayor since taking office on April 22. "Not only am I the liquor commissioner, I am also the de facto gaming commissioner."
Currently, Marion has 133 gaming machines in city limits, with a state-mandated limit of five machines per establishment. Absher said there were 28 businesses with gaming licenses, though not all of them have the five machines.
He said various businesses that had been turned down in the past were now coming back to the city for gaming licenses. Not all of the applicants have currently have liquor licenses, but because of state regulations, unless they were applying for a "truck stop" license, they would at least have to have a "pour" license for beer and wine.
"There could be a moral slippery slope with this," Absher said, and he sought the council's advice on how to proceed. "With 133 of these, we can't really put the genie back in the bottle, but what do you want to do with these?"
Absher said that by limiting the number of gambling licenses, they would also be limiting the liquor licenses.
"Maybe not such a bad thing," he said.
Finance Commissioner Doug Patton said that more research ought to be done, perhaps taking a survey of other cities.
"We need to come up with a top number. I just don't know how much that is."
Absher said, "I think that's the question, do we need 100 more gaming machines in this town, or is 133 enough? There is no question there is revenue in it."
Absher voiced concerns about saturating the market and harming the businesses already invested in it.
In the case of Drury Inn, Absher said the hotel had asked that its Class IV liquor license be amended to allow them to sell packaged beer and wine to registered guests. The mayor said he was seeking consent from the council to amend the ordinance for a future vote.