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The Thunderbird Casino closed in June 2008. As of December 2008 it is still closed and does not look like it will ever open again. The following is an article from the Yakima Herald-Republic dated June 11, 2008:

Casino closes: It owes city gambling taxes By DAVID LESTER Yakima Herald-Republic

Yakima County's only off-track betting establishment, the Thunderbird Casino and Lounge, closed Tuesday amid uncertainty about its future with significant back gambling taxes due the city.

The Thunderbird owes nearly $176,000 in taxes on gambling revenues, according to city records, and Yakima officials said the city likely will sue to get its money.

The money is owed on gambling revenues for three quarters of 2007 and the first quarter of 2008.

The city is budgeted to receive $951,000 in gambling tax proceeds this year from gambling activities at cardroom casinos, bars and taverns in the city.

Property taxes for the first half of the year, $8,610, also are delinquent, said county Treasurer Ilene Thomson.

No signs were posted at the longtime nightspot Tuesday, but an employee said the Thunderbird, located just south of the intersection of Nob Hill Boulevard and South First Street, would be closed for two weeks.

Meanwhile, Emerald Downs of Auburn, authorized to operate off-track betting, is moving to obtain approval for another Yakima location, Susie's Bourbon Street Bistro and Bar, 1023 N. First St., to become the satellite wagering site for area horse racing fans.

Robert Leichner, executive secretary of the Washington State Horse Racing Commission, said Emerald Downs is asking the five-member commission to expedite review of its request for Susie's.

The commission is expected to discuss the request at its meeting Thursday in Auburn.

Paul George of Yakima, a former mayor and member of the commission, said the loss of the satellite wagering would be a major blow to the county.

State law permits only one off-track betting site per county. The Thunderbird had been that site for at least a decade.

"Our focus is to be sure we get an operating off-track betting site for patrons in the Yakima area," George added.

While progress is being made on the satellite wagering issue, much less is certain about the future of the Thunderbird.

The business was recently purchased by a limited liability company called Chance Investments, based in Kennewick.

A license to operate the Thunderbird is reportedly in the process of being transferred. A spokeswoman for the Washington State Gambling Commission was not available for comment Tuesday.

City Finance Director Rita DeBord said a partial payment on the 2007 back taxes had been paid.

Deputy City Attorney Helen Harvey said she has discussed the back taxes issue with a Kennewick attorney hired by the new owners. The attorney, Leland Kerr, said Tuesday he is trying to sort out the debts.

"I'm still gathering information to see how deep the hole is and to see if it is retrievable," he said.

He also said he wants to see if additional investors can be brought in.

The previous owner, Steve Nafso, previous owner of the La Bodega Yakimex, said Tuesday he sold the business in a stock purchase in which the new owners assumed the assets and liabilities. He said the business was sold five months ago and declined further comment.

He would not disclose the purchase price.

The Thunderbird is one of three major cardrooms in Yakima. The others -- which reported larger overall receipts in the gambling commission's most recent annual report -- are the Casino Caribbean near Interstate 82 on East Nob Hill Boulevard and Nob Hill Casino, east of 40th Avenue on West Nob Hill.

A plan to expand the Thunderbird also is in jeopardy. A site plan submitted to the city a year ago proposed to double the size of the casino in a new location at the current site.

City planners determined the application was not complete and sought more information. The application is now considered inactive, said planner Kevin Futtrell.

  • David Lester can be reached at 577-7674 or dlester@yakimaherald.com

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