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Gardena Is One Town That Gambled, Won

February 07, 1993

Regarding James Flanigan's column headlined "Using Gambling as a Source of Revenue Is a Sucker's Bet" (Jan. 13). I'd like to suggest that he review the financial records of the City of Gardena from 1936 to about 1982. He would discover that it was a small, agricultural-based community with a couple thousand people, poor roads and no city facilities to speak of.

The first legal poker club opened in 1935 or '36. For almost 50 years since, card club license fees and taxes were a major source of the city's revenue. At one point, there were six card rooms, which employed about 3,000 people, purchased hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of goods and services (from local vendors where possible) and paid almost $5 million annually in license fees (about a third of the city's total income).

When most cities of its size depended on the county for police and fire protection, Gardena boasted a beautiful, modern civic center with its own police and fire departments, City Hall, library, gymnasium and other city-operated facilities. Its streets were well-lighted, well-marked and maintained, and it ran a free municipal bus system.

For many years, its municipal tax rate was below average, and it was reduced every year. And, oh, yes, its crime rate compared favorably to other Southern California cities of similar size.

Can gambling provide revenue? Ask the 2,000 or so employees of the Bicycle Club in Bell Gardens. Ask their families, and the local merchants who sell them shoes, gasoline, cars and books.

And, especially, ask the members of the Bell Gardens City Council.


Calimesa, Calif.

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