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Developer Drops Plan to Build Card Casino

March 11, 1993|RENEE TAWA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MONTEREY PARK — In a surprise announcement, a Los Angeles development company has dropped its pursuit of plans for a card club.

A spokesman for BCTC Development Corp. announced at this week's council meeting that the company had decided to back off from seeking a ballot measure that would have allowed the company to build a $30-million card club at the Long Beach Freeway (710) and Floral Drive.

After the Monday meeting, BCTC Vice President Richard Myers conceded that such a petition drive might not have succeeded in the face of some strong opposition in the community. If BCTC had decided to proceed, the company would have had 30 days after filing notice to collect 3,466 valid signatures--15% of the city's registered voters--for a special election.

"It was too close a business decision to invest half a million dollars on a campaign," Myers said.

The decision to drop the plans was unexpected, given that a company spokesman said two weeks ago that opposition voiced at a recent council meeting would not affect the company's decision.

At the Feb. 22 council meeting, a record crowd of more than 700 people, most of them opponents, showed up for a contentious 4 1/2-hour hearing on a proposed resolution aimed at discouraging BCTC from launching a petition drive to put the issue of a gambling center before voters. After the meeting, a BCTC spokesman said the crowd was not a fair reflection of the community's sentiment.

Some supporters of the card club also spoke up at the council meeting, saying the project would bring sorely needed revenue into the city. Opponents argued that the club also would bring in crime and serve as a poor example for youth in the area.

Myers said his company's decision to back away from the casino project had nothing to do with concerns about keeping in the community's good graces for another BCTC development plan--an $80-million retail and mixed-use project that is scheduled to go before the city's Community Redevelopment Agency in April.

"They were totally independent of each other," he said.

The casino issue was one of the city's most hotly contested issues in recent years.

The council had approved a resolution vowing to "take all steps legally permissible to keep gambling establishments illegal" in the city. If BCTC had collected the required petition signatures and voters had approved a ballot measure, the council still would have had authority to reject specific plans for the card club design and operation.

"I'm very happy . . . we do not have to face a polarizing issue that will divide our city," said Councilman Sam Kiang, who had sponsored the resolution against card casinos.

Kiang's resolution said BCTC had used money "illegally to entice unsuspecting residents to attend focus group discussions presented by the promoter."

At Monday's meeting, Myers lashed out at BCTC's critics for what he called innuendo. He provided a letter from Fairbank, Maullin & Associates, the opinion research firm hired to run BCTC's focus groups. The research firm said it is standard industry practice to pay people to attend focus groups.

Myers said he wanted to set the record straight.

"Because BCTC has always enjoyed an excellent working relationship with the city and looks forward to a long and mutually rewarding relationship for many years to come, we feel it is imperative that the city be provided with the true facts."

The company's telephone survey of about 1,000 Monterey Park residents showed the population about evenly split on the idea of a card club, Myers said.

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