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Davis Appoints 4 to New Gambling Commission

Gaming: Two Angelenos and two San Franciscans named to panel on card clubs and Indian casinos.


SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gray Davis on Tuesday appointed four members to the state Gambling Control Commission, a new body with wide-ranging authority over California's multibillion-dollar card club industry and some jurisdiction over Indian casinos.

The appointees are John E. Hensley, 57, of Los Angeles; Arlo Smith, 72, of San Francisco; Michael C. Palmer, 51, of Los Angeles; and J.K. Sasaki, 51, of San Francisco. Hensley will chair the commission, which was born out of legislation by state Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer when he served in the state Senate.

Lockyer's measure called for the creation of a five-member commission as of Jan. 1, 1999. Nonetheless, a spokesman for Lockyer described Tuesday's announcement as "very timely."

"The Gambling Control Commission provides a great deal of policy direction on how gambling enforcement activities will be conducted in the state," said Lockyer spokesman Nathan Barankin. "With newly negotiated compacts and ongoing needs of California card rooms, having a commission in place at this point is a very good thing."

Still to be appointed by Davis is a public member of the commission.

Each position requires Senate confirmation, and members will receive a $109,799 salary.

Davis announced the appointments as California is entering a new era in gambling, due partly to casino operating agreements, or compacts, that Davis struck with more than 50 Indian tribes. Dozens of new or lavishly upgraded casinos are expected on reservations across California in coming months.

The commission will oversee some aspects of Indian-run gambling, including reviewing the backgrounds of vendors who sell slot machines to the tribes.

The commission, said Harlan Goodson, director of the division of gambling control in Lockyer's office, also acts as trustee of a special revenue-sharing fund for distribution of money to non-gambling tribes. The account is estimated to hold more than $35 million.

Lockyer's legislation also called for commission members to have broad powers to monitor, license and oversee the card club industry.

"With the signing of the compacts, [the commission members] are going to have a lot to do," said Rodney Blonien, a lobbyist for the Commerce Club, a card club in Commerce.

Blonien estimated that card club matters will constitute about 20% of the commission's work and that the casinos will make up the bulk.

Hensley has served as director of Western U.S. operations for Investigative Group International since 1999. He previously was special agent in charge of the U.S. customs office in Los Angeles. He is a former president of the National Native American Law Enforcement Assn. and serves on its board of directors.

Palmer, a certified public accountant, is the chief executive officer of e-Sat, a Universal City-based telecommunications firm. He previously served as the chief financial officer of Hollywood Park Casino in Los Angeles and as chief executive officer of Olympic National Bank.

Sasaki was vice president, senior counsel and director of government relations for UnionBanCal Corp. in San Francisco from 1978 to 2000. She also served as a deputy on the California Business Roundtable from 1992 to 1998.

Perhaps the best-known member of the commission is Smith, who was district attorney for the city and county of San Francisco from 1980 to 1996. He ran unsuccessfully for California attorney general in 1990, losing to Dan Lungren. Smith served in the state attorney general's office from 1953 to 1980 and now is a special counsel on administrative law matters and legal opinions for the office.

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