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Outside gambling provider moves in

Bowling has been a big part of the Long family for a long time.

In 2016, their love for bowling brought Cathleen Long and her brothers, Ron and Steve, to Osakis, where they bought Lakeview Lanes from long-time owners Doug and Carol Oelfke.

Over the past year, the Longs have undergone a major rehaul of the interior of the bowling alley.

"The whole town doesn't understand what I've done," Ron Long said at the regular city council meeting on Nov. 6. "I've replaced everything."

Long attended the city council meeting to advocate for what he saw as an important part of his business's health: pull-tabs.

What began as a conversation about gambling contracts, quickly evolved into a conversation about patriotism and how to best support the city of Osakis.

Long wanted the Alexandria Area United States Bowling Congress to be the provider of the bowling alley's pull-tabs.

The local VFW is currently providing gambling for the bowling alley and Donald Tonn attended the meeting to advocate against the city granting the license to an outside group.

Council member Jerry Olson asked why Long wouldn't just use one of the two local gambling licensures. "It's hard for me to believe that Osakis will benefit (by granting licenses to non-local groups)," Olson said. "Community first. Osakis first. My obligation is to the city."

Long argued that he did attempt to use local providers. When Long approached the Osakis Economic Development Commission to provide pull-tabs for the bowling alley, he was directed to the VFW because the commission was too busy with another contract. A representative from the commission confirmed that this was true.

After working with the VFW for two months, Long is convinced that the USBC could do a better job.

"We did everything the guy asked us to do," Tonn said in defense of the VFW. He added they put roughly $2,000 into the bowling alley project in new and used equipment.

"Sounds like if this organization wants to make a $2,000 donation to the VFW, then we should be good," commented council member Justin Dahlheimer.

Council member Jim Snyder came to Long's defense.

"Ron gave the VFW a good go," Snyder said. "Ron's the business owner. He's put the effort into it. That's the American way. He should have the choice. I think we're taking away his rights to tell him he can't do it."

Steve Mihalchick was also in attendance from the VFW. He addressed the council saying, "(Long)'s got a right to do it and you've got a right to try and focus it here (in Osakis)."

Other community members in attendance supported Long, saying that he needed to do what he could be make the business thrive.

"Another business closed downtown won't help Osakis," one resident said.

"It sounds like this association is going to keep his business alive," council member Randy Anderson said.

Mayor Keith Emerson stated, "I don't think anyone would dispute that the VFW does great things. The time I've been on the council and as mayor, we've had a great relationship."

Snyder called to approve the USBC license for the bowling alley and Anderson seconded the motion. It passed, 4-1, with Olson opposing it.

The Alexandria Area USBC will be providing the pull-tabs for the bowling alley.