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Lungren Rails Against Card Club at Track : Gaming: Attorney general's opposition to Hollywood Park plan jeopardizes a project Inglewood was banking on to generate revenue.


Proposed legislation that would allow Hollywood Park Race Track to own and operate a card club has drawn strong opposition from the state attorney general, throwing into doubt a project that Inglewood officials see as their best hope to generate much-needed tax revenues.

Two proposals, if approved, would fundamentally change state gaming law and bring California "one step closer" to legalized, large-scale types of gambling, according to a three-page letter from Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren's office.

The letter was addressed to the two Southland legislators pushing for the changes, state Sen. Teresa Hughes and Assemblyman Curtis Tucker Jr., both Inglewood Democrats.

Hollywood Park officials said they had no comment on the letter.

At stake is who can own and operate card clubs in the state. By a narrow margin last November, Inglewood voters approved a referendum to allow a card club in the Cary Grant Pavilion at Hollywood Park. During the campaign, park officials said their corporation would own and operate the club just as it does the racetrack.

However, state law prohibits publicly owned corporations such as the park from obtaining card club licenses. The idea behind the law is that the state wants to know exactly who the owners of a gaming operation are, which is difficult in a situation in which stock is publicly traded back and forth among thousands of anonymous owners.

Anyone with a financial interest, however small, in a proposed card club must undergo a thorough investigative check by the attorney general.

To get the law changed, backers of the Hollywood Park card club went to Tucker and Hughes for help. The two legislators introduced bills to allow publicly held corporations to own card clubs.

Tucker pointed out that gambling has been going on for decades at racetracks in the state, such as Hollywood Park, which are owned by publicly held corporations.

Hughes' bill has already passed the Senate without comment, though at the time of the vote Lungren had not yet voiced opposition to it. Tucker's bill has yet to be heard in an Assembly committee.

Paul Bishop, the assistant attorney general in change of gaming licenses, said he doubts that either bill will pass both houses or be signed by Gov. Pete Wilson as long as Lungren opposes it.

It the law is changed, according to the attorney general's letter, corporations could "form subsidiaries which could then hide the true ownership of those corporations. Organized crime could also infiltrate those subsidiaries by placing hidden owners into key positions in those gaming clubs."

The letter added that unlike Nevada and New Jersey, states where large, corporate-owned casinos are allowed, California does not have an investigative commission assigned only to overseeing the gaming industry.

Tucker said he is continuing to negotiate with Lungren in an effort to resolve objections to the proposed legislation.

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