CUDAHY — Just as card club owner Charles R. King was starting to breathe easier last week--only days after voters failed to kick his casino out of town by referendum--his company bounced a $10,000 check to the city and now could have its gambling license administratively revoked.
At a hearing next Monday night, the City Council is to decide if it has grounds to do what voters narrowly refused; two weeks ago an anti-gambling ordinance that might have ousted King was defeated at the polls by a single ballot, with 290 favoring repeal of the gambling ordinance, and 291 against.
If it comes down to a revocation vote, City Councilman Wilfred Colon said he expects King to lose. In April, Colon and two other council members won election after focusing their campaigns on the shortcomings of King's Silver Saddle Casino.
"I would say that not only the council people but also the residents are pretty fed up with this," Colon said. "He's had a financial problem since the beginning . . . This has been going on for four years."
Other council members agreed that they are likely to call for action against King, but said it may stop short of calling for his license since the businessman made good on the check.
Said Mayor Joseph Graffio: "I told Chuck here a couple weeks ago (when the anti-gambling referendum failed) . . . 'As long as you make your payments, I don't know what we can do. But if you miss your payments, then we're going to do something.' "
Started With Big Plans
When King unveiled plans for the card club five years ago, he said it would become the world's largest, capable of bringing Cudahy $1.9 million in tax revenues each year. But when the casino finally opened last February in a former automobile smog control station at Wilcox Avenue and Patata Street, it had four tables instead of the 100 originally envisioned. And King could only generate income enough to make the minimum $10,000 monthly city payment.
King had paid the city a total of $15,357 for his first 1 1/2 months operation. The payments are a tax on the casino revenues.
But on May 14, he made his April tax payment by way of a $10,000 check from his casino company, Tanlo Inc., according to City Manager John Porter. Nine days later, the check bounced when the bank reported that Tanlo's account held insufficient funds, Porter said.
"When I advised Mr. King that the check had been deemed 'not sufficient funds' he called the bank," said Porter. "He was surprised by the fact that it was not good."
According to Porter, King explained that "he had deposited a check in his account that turned out not to be good, a check from another party."
"He (King) realizes the importance of making the payments on time," Porter said.
King did not return a call for comment.
Porter said that within hours, King made good on the check and the city received its money. But because the payment was several days overdue by that time, the card club owner was still in violation of one of his license requirements, City Atty. Steven L. Dorsey said. "That constituted non-payment by the required (May 15) date," the lawyer explained.
According to city regulations, Porter will now present the council with a report of the incident. And King will have an opportunity to publicly explain the situation and defend himself at Monday's hearing.
"Obviously, we're going to let him say his piece," said Councilman Tom Thurman. Among other things, Thurman said he wants to know if King could have warned city officials about the problem before bank employees took it upon themselves to alert the city.
Since the money was eventually paid, Thurman said the council may stop short of revoking King's license and simply do something to ensure that he doesn't bounce anymore checks. "We're not going to be extremely hardhearted," he said.
But Graffio said he will at least seek tighter restrictions over the way King is to make payments.
"In the future when he pays us I want no more personal checks," said Graffio. "I want a certified check. I want to be sure of it."