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Anaheim Council Rejects Card Club : Casino: Plans for a $60-million center are dismissed out of hand. City's decision is spurred in part by phone campaign by promoters criticized as deceptive.

December 01, 1993|MATT LAIT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — In a public rebuke, the City Council on Tuesday refused to consider a proposal from a group of investors seeking to build a mammoth 200-table card club in the city.

"Tonight's action by the City Council effectively ends the discussion," Mayor Tom Daly said. "A majority of the council spoke loud and clear that this proposal is not acceptable."

The card club bid failed when the council declined to put the issue on the agenda for its next meeting. To emphasize the council's stand, the mayor also asked the city's attorney to draft a letter to the investors telling them the council "will not take up this request."

Representatives of the card club investment group, known as Southland Entertainment Properties, could not be reached for comment.

On Nov. 3, the group unveiled a plan to build a $60-million entertainment center in the northeast end of the city that would include a theater, an upscale restaurant, a conference room and the largest card club in Southern California. The casino would be operated by the Los Angeles-area Commerce Club and would include poker.

Investors have tried to sell that project as tourist attraction that would pump about $11 million a year into city coffers. That money, card club proponents said, could be used to pay for more police officers.

But the proposal angered many residents. They said they were concerned that a casino would attract crime and prostitution. It came under more criticism last week when the investors began a telephone campaign to win support by seizing on the city's concern about crime.

The investors had telephone solicitors ask residents if they supported an "entertainment center" to help the city pay for 120 new police officers. Residents who said yes were encouraged to voice their support and, in many cases, were transferred directly to City Hall telephones by the solicitors.

Several residents and city officials complained that the solicitors were misleading and neglected to mention there would be a card club in the entertainment center.

In fact, the council was spurred into its action Tuesday by one such complaint.

Leonard Lahtinen told the council he was upset because he was called and asked to support the card club by a person claiming to be with a group called Citizens for Safe Streets in Anaheim. He said the caller was "deceptive."

"The residents of Anaheim deserve to be dealt with in an up-front manner," Lahtinen said. Several council members agreed.

"I share your resentment over their tactics," Daly said. He criticized the investors for "not using a straightforward approach and not putting their cards on the table."

Councilman Fred Hunter suggested that the council reject the proposal immediately.

"We have enough votes to say no to this," he said. To avoid a public hearing on the proposal, the council decided not to even schedule a discussion of it.

Only Councilman Frank Feldhaus said he had not made up his mind about the card club proposal.

"I thought that we were elected to look at both sides of an issue before we decide on anything," he said.

Unlike those proposing card clubs in Stanton and Cypress, which were soundly defeated in ballot measures, the Anaheim investors were trying to bypass the voters. Their package included a proposed amendment to an ordinance that would empower the city council alone to approve the project.

Despite the council's rejection Tuesday, the investors still could attempt to put the proposal on a ballot by soliciting signatures on petitions.

Times correspondent Terry Spencer contributed to this report.

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