Contradicting an Oxnard city attorney's opinion, the state attorney general has ruled that the Oxnard City Council could not have legally approved a major card casino last June without also gaining voter approval.
Dist. Atty. Michael D. Bradbury, a key opponent of a casino, requested the attorney general's opinion before the Oxnard City Council unanimously rejected big-time gambling June 22.
City Atty. Gary Gillig had told the council that it could approve a large casino without a ballot referendum--which is generally required in California--because Oxnard allowed gambling before the new state gaming law went into effect in 1984.
Gillig said the City Council could approve a casino simply by amending a pre-existing ordinance that allows gambling sponsored by charity and religious groups.
But, in his opinion, Atty. Gen. Daniel E. Lungren disagreed.
Lungren said unilateral City Council approval would violate the legislative intent of state gaming law, because the small charitable operations allowed in Oxnard are "substantially different" from a large commercial card room.
"As a matter of common sense and equity," the council could not have legally approved a gaming club so different from the charitable operations, Lungren wrote.
Gillig said Lungren has a right to his opinion, but that his own position is supported by attorneys at two large Los Angeles law firms.
"So I guess it's 3 to 2," Gillig said. "Frankly, I would like to have seen (Lungren) support my position, but a court of law is the ultimate decision-maker. I believe the court would side with my position if it came to that."
Gillig said he expects no such test soon. The City Council unanimously dropped the card club proposal when faced with strong community opposition.
Bradbury declined comment on the opinion.