After seven hours of an often raucous debate on gambling, God and the morality of poker, Compton City Council members decided to hitch their city's fortunes to a card casino.
The final vote came about 1 a.m. Friday with a three-person council majority voting to license a card parlor, even though two of them said the decision could mark the end of their political careers.
"I may not be reelected, I know that," said Councilman Omar Bradley, who is running for mayor in the April elections. "But I didn't run for office to become a popular person. I ran to make a difference."
Along with council members Bernice Woods and Jane D. Robbins, Bradley is facing a recall, largely because of his support for the casino. Mayor and Congressman-elect Walter R. Tucker III, an opponent of the card club, was absent from the council meeting, as was Councilwoman Patricia A. Moore, who has abstained from voting on the issue.
If the card club is completed in mid-1994 as scheduled, it will be the seventh such gaming establishment in Los Angeles County.
Opponents said they have no plans to try to block the $9-million, eight-acre casino in court, but will concentrate on throwing Bradley, Woods and Robbins off the council.
"We anticipated the gross insensitivity of the council," said the Rev. George L. Thomas of the Holy Chapel Baptist Church, who is helping lead the recall effort.
"That's why we started the recall early. Now we're just concentrating on the petitions."
To force a recall, Thomas' group, Citizens for Accountable Government, will have to collect nearly 7,000 signatures on each of three petitions--one for each targeted council member. According to City Clerk Charles Davis, recalls have been attempted several times in Compton over the past 20 years, but were not successful.
Casino opponents were angered during Thursday night's public hearing by the council's refusal to put the development question to a citywide vote.
"A wise decision for you would be to wipe your hands of this issue and let the people decide," said businessman Fred Cressel.
The 75 people who testified before the council were in favor of a citywide vote by about 2 to 1. Many who spoke--on both sides of the issue--were clergy, who often used biblical references.
In a statement read to the council, the Rev. E. Boyd Esters said he was against gambling personally, but supported the casino.
"God's laws are for his children and not for the unbeliever," Esters said. "Before God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, he moved his children and not the city."
A majority of the clergy argued that a casino would bring more crime and vice to the city, setting a bad example for young people.
"We don't need to sell our souls to make a buck," said the Rev. Howard Simon of First Southern Baptist Church.
Compton Entertainment Inc., the company licensed to create the card parlor, said a $2-million check--for the lease and licensing fees--will be delivered to the cash-strapped city in 90 days.
If its plans continue unhindered, the company plans to build the casino, two restaurants, a bar and nightclub in the city's nearly empty auto mall, next to the Riverside, Long Beach and Harbor freeways.
Jerold B. Neuman, attorney for Compton Entertainment, said that the development would create at least 1,200 jobs and that, when running at capacity, the 24-hour card casino could pump $10 million annually into the city's recession-depleted coffers.
"I hope the people don't look at . . . whether good or evil won but at whether something was done to improve Compton's condition," Neuman said.
"In the end, we believe, Compton will be the better for what happened last night."