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ORANGE COUNTY PERSPECTIVE : Gambling Clubs: Invitation to Trouble

May 06, 1993

Proposals for legalized card clubs in Orange County are popping up as fast as three-card monte games on New York street corners. All deserve to be rejected.

The latest bid comes from representatives of the California Commerce Club and is aimed at Anaheim.

So far the backers have refused to disclose any details, except to sprinkle wonderful numbers like $10 million a year into their talks with City Council members. That's how much they say a card club could mean for the city.

There also have been vague suggestions of a hotel and entertainment facilities being tacked on to the club, which would be built at some unspecified site in Anaheim.

Disneyland's president wisely has suggested that the city turn thumbs down on the idea, saying legalized card games are "just not right for the area." Others in the city are equally opposed.

It's hard to imagine how a mammoth casino could coexist with a city that has built its image on family-type entertainment--a day at Disneyland or a night at the ballpark or, soon, the new hockey rink.

Last summer the California Commerce Club used the same $10-million figure in asking San Diego to approve a huge club; the City Council quickly said no.

One reason for San Diego's rejection was the strong opposition of city police and the county district attorney. They argued, sensibly, that much of that income would have to be spent on beefed-up policing.

In fact, law enforcement officers in many cities have noted attendant problems such as money laundering, extortion and robbery in places where card games have been approved. Orange County cities, take note. Those arguments apply here, too.

The mayors of Los Alamitos and Westminster in fact have urged Anaheim to reject the card club, saying it will "negatively affect all of Orange County," through gang activity and robberies of the lucky few winners once they head for home. Westminster's City Council last March rejected a proposal to legalize gambling.

Voters in Stanton and Cypress will decide on June 8 whether to allow card clubs in their cities. Anaheim Mayor Tom Daly said there's no harm in his city's listening to casino proposals, especially because Cypress and Stanton might approve them. But Daly gave the best argument against the club when he said Anaheim doesn't really need it.

None of the cities need a casino. Times are tough enough now without adding new problems.

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