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California and the West

Gaming Panel Favors State Oversight of Bingo

Gambling: Proponents say the bill would protect true charitable interests that are losing ground to corporate operations.

April 17, 2001|JULIE TAMAKI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Members of the California Gambling Control Commission indicated Monday that they favor legislation that would allow the state to regulate charitable bingo games.

Organizations that hold bingo games are licensed by city and county governments, but a measure by Sen. Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles) would transfer that responsibility to the state's recently formed Gambling Control Commission.

California, Polanco said, is one of only six states that does not regulate bingo.

Polanco's bill, SB 832, would also prevent organizations from holding bingo games more than four days a week and would make it a crime for security guards to handle money in any bingo game. The measure also bars money raised at bingo games in California from being used for any charitable purposes outside the state, with an exception made for natural disasters that occur beyond state borders.

Polanco said the measure seeks to re-create an atmosphere where true charitable bingo operations can once again flourish in California, noting their numbers in the city of Los Angeles alone have dwindled from 161 to 38 in recent years. He blamed big corporate bingo operations for the demise of smaller operations.

"You have some real operators now who are forgetting the intent of the voters by sending the money abroad and using it for their own political ideology," Polanco said.

A group of rabbis and Middle East peace activists have previously accused Irving Moskowitz, a Hawaiian Gardens bingo and card casino operator, of using profits from his clubs to build new Jewish settlements in Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem--an accusation that Moskowitz has denied through his attorneys.

Gregg Cook, a lobbyist representing the Irving I. Moskowitz Foundation, spoke against several of the operational restrictions. He warned the commission that limiting the number of days that games could be held at a club "would hurt charities."

Commissioners Michael Palmer and J.K. Sasaki said the Polanco measure would resolve inconsistencies in how the parlors are regulated in the state. The commission delayed voting on a motion by Commissioner Arlo Smith to conditionally support the legislation, which will be a subject of a Senate hearing today in the Capitol.

In an unrelated matter, officials and activists from Oxnard asked the commission to turn down any request by gambling interests to locate a casino in their city. Las Vegas-based Paragon Corp. has proposed building a casino and 250-room hotel on the current site of the Oxnard Factory Outlets and a nearby field. The company, which is working with the Greenville Rancheria of Maidu Indians, has stated that the development will bring jobs and money to Oxnard.

Oxnard Mayor Manuel Lopez pleaded with the commission to seriously consider the desires of residents when siting decisions for future casinos are being made. He said that many of the 170,000 residents of his city are new immigrants, making Oxnard an easy target for gambling interests seeking to locate a casino in an urban area.

"I feel that we are being targeted because most other cities in the county have a more sophisticated electorate, whose opposition would be more difficult to overcome," Lopez said.

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