Florence casino halted as developer pulls beer, wine license application

2013-02-23T06:20:00Z 2013-02-23T06:20:53Z Florence casino halted as developer pulls beer, wine license application missoulian.com

FLORENCE – A Montana developer hoping to open a casino in a Florence convenience store has withdrawn his application for a beer and wine license after it drew too much “bad publicity” for the property’s owner.

“Town Pump is very public relations-minded,” said Dan Fillinger, the commercial real estate developer and owner of Mountain Magic Pubs LLC, who wanted to open a Mountain Magic Casino in space owned by Town Pump Inc. near the intersection of U.S. Highway 93 and the Eastside Highway in Florence.

“They’re good people. They came to me and said, ‘Would you consider not doing it?’ I said, ‘Yeah, it’s not that big of a deal to me.’ ”

In December, Fillinger applied for the new beer and wine license necessary for a casino through the Montana Department of Revenue.

Shawna Helfert, administrator for the Liquor Control Division, confirmed the application has been withdrawn by Fillinger and said no specific reason was given.

Fillinger’s application drew 420 eligible protest letters from area residents, many of whom fought a proposed Lucky Lil’s casino in the same spot in 2000.

A state Department of Revenue Liquor Control Division hearings examiner later denied that beer and wine license request after more than 800 area residents testified they didn’t want another casino in town.

Florence residents Steve and Bonnie Arno were involved in both protests and were delighted to learn Fillinger’s application was withdrawn.

“I think a whole bunch of us have expressed some pride in the people of the community, that they would take the time to (protest) this. They care enough about their community, to me that’s the take-home,” Arno said on Friday.

They argued another casino would negatively impact the town in a variety of ways, saying demand for alcohol and gambling in the area already is met by three bar/casinos and several Town Pump casinos located within seven miles of Florence.

The Arnos organized an informal phone tree to alert residents to the application and circulated a form letter that included the address of the Department of Revenue, deadline for protests and directions on what a protest letter needed, Steve said.

“People had to fill in their own personal reasons (for protesting) and their name and address and sign it,” he said.

Fillinger said in January he believed it was a small group made up of friends of local bar owners and members of the religious right who were spearheading the protest. He noted that Arno holds a weekly Bible study at KT’s Hayloft Saloon and Deli in Lolo.

Arno said he doesn’t consider himself a member of the religious right and that no bar owners joined in the protest because they feared retribution if they got involved. He said the Bible study is held at the Hayloft because it’s convenient, quiet and the only spot nearby that offers breakfast.

On Friday, Fillinger said he still has questions about who was behind the protests, but is ready to move on. He’s currently working on several other projects, mostly in the eastern part of the state.

Reporter Jenna Cederberg can be reached at 523-5241 or at jenna.cederberg@missoulian.com.

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(6) Comments

  1. dsrobins
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    dsrobins - February 23, 2013 2:09 pm
    It's nice to see the decent folks of Florence win one for a change as the sleazy new casino goes away. It won't be missed.
  2. Roger
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    Roger - February 23, 2013 12:42 pm
    Arno was some sort of highly educated Forest Circus researcher before he retired - one wouldn't figure him for a bible-thumper, which some might consider an indication of a mental defect.
  3. Rabbit-brush
    Report Abuse
    Rabbit-brush - February 23, 2013 10:02 am
    Bible study at KT's??? You mean the same KT's with the naked woman kicking up her feet in the beer mug? The same KT's with the garish video sign and, oh look, there's that woman again! This time she's clothed, but her breasts are bulging out of her little tube top and you can even catch a glimpse of her underpants! How nice that the Lolo school kids get to walk past this misogynist sleaze every school day. Wonder if the Bible study folks get a "go cup" when they leave? ...for their coffee, of course.
  4. FlorenceDude
    Report Abuse
    FlorenceDude - February 23, 2013 7:33 am
    If there is so much PRIDE in the community, how about putting ths same amount of effort in removing John McGee the Superintendent of Florence Carlton School. He now has SIX acts of Plagairism confirmed that were wtitten in our own school paper for all the Community to read. Is this not as serious of an issue as a casino? Over 800 Students in that school being taught that Plagairism isn't a big deal. He now stands up in front of English classes crying using the kids to help him keep his job. If all these people " care enough about their community" as you said. How about starting a petition against Plagairism by Our own Superintendent and send it around the community.
  5. Wrong Way Corrigan
    Report Abuse
    Wrong Way Corrigan - February 23, 2013 12:03 am
  6. Bittersweet
    Report Abuse
    Bittersweet - February 22, 2013 9:45 pm
    Steve you are a hypocrite. "He said the Bible study is held at the Hayloft because it’s convenient, quiet and the only spot nearby that offers breakfast."..."demand for alcohol and gambling in the area already is met by three bar/casinos and several Town Pump casinos located within seven miles of Florence."

    Shall I start counting the other non gambling establishments close by (within 7 miles) that are also convenient, quiet and offer a great breakfast? (Much better than the toxic grease your good buddy Frank Miller serves) You should be ashamed of yourself.

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