The West Hollywood City Council has placed a gambling initiative on the November ballot, asking voters to decide whether the city should allow one legalized card club to operate within its borders.
The council, which has been unanimous in its opposition to the measure, voted 3 to 1 recently to hold the referendum anyway--betting that the city's best chance to defeat the gambling initiative would come during the November general election, when more voters go to the polls than in other elections.
City officials also predicted that the measure would have a hard time passing, saying it sets up a "special tax" and therefore requires a two-thirds vote for approval.
The decision to hold the November referendum was welcome news to backers of the initiative, who had tried and failed to gather enough signatures in time to place an initiative on the November ballot. But they did collect more than enough to qualify a measure for the next municipal election in April, 1992.
"We are delighted by the news, and we are ready to get started," proclaimed Philip Marks, a general partner of the Cavendish West Hollywood, a private bridge and rummy club that is sponsoring the referendum.
City officials agreed to hold the election in November after proponents of the initiative said they did not want to wait until 1992 to hold a referendum and announced plans to launch another petition drive to get a measure on the ballot in April, 1991, when the community college election is expected to draw few voters to the polls.
"That would be an election we could lose because most people don't show up," said Councilman Paul Koretz as he joined Abbe Land and Babette Lang in voting for the November initiative. Sal Guarriello cast the only vote against the measure. John Heilman was absent.
The card club would be similar to clubs operating in the cities of Commerce and Bell Gardens, where legal card games such as draw poker are allowed but games of chance such as blackjack are prohibited. The clubs make their profit by renting table space to the players. Betting against the house is not permitted.
Proponents of the initiative claim that the city could get from $5 million to $10 million annually from the club, roughly 10% of its estimated gross revenues.