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Garden Grove Says 'No Dice' to Casino

Council members unanimously reject the proposal, saying it wouldn't fit now that the city has cleaned up its image.

August 25, 2004|Kimi Yoshino | Times Staff Writer

Saying it would spoil the city's improved image, Garden Grove council members voted unanimously Tuesday to kill any effort to build an Indian casino.

"It is very clear to me that there is widespread opposition to gambling in Orange County," said Councilman Mark Rosen. "We shouldn't take it any further because of that."

Council members agreed that with Garden Grove home to the Crystal Cathedral and neighbor to Disneyland, a casino would not fit into the city's family-oriented vision of itself.

"Garden Grove quality of life is not for sale at any price," said Councilman Mark Leyes.

The vote put to rest a weeklong flurry of excitement and speculation that Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn might want to build a mega-resort on Harbor Boulevard.

News of the idea surfaced last week at an Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting, when Supervisor Chris Norby disclosed that Garden Grove staff and council members had met with Wynn.

Council members said that Wynn -- who developed Mirage, Treasure Island and Bellagio and helped transform Las Vegas -- was potentially interested in property along Harbor Boulevard, south of Disneyland, in the city's redevelopment zone.

Wynn issued a statement last week saying no negotiations were underway.

The city could sell land to the Department of the Interior, which would put it in trust for the Mesa Grande tribe in eastern San Diego County. But the deal would go through only if the tribe and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger reached a deal that allowed them to operate a casino.

Opposition to the plan came swiftly -- from residents, council members and area politicians, who said the city had worked too hard to clean up its image. They said a casino would invite crime and prostitution.

Dozens of residents who packed Tuesday's council meeting accused leaders of being "underhanded and deceitful" in their discussions to bring gambling to the city.

Council members confirmed that they had met with Wynn in May in Las Vegas. They said they met with him in groups of two and were asked to sign confidentiality agreements.

Days before Norby broke news of the casino, Garden Grove resident David Lautherboren said he confronted the council.

"I flat-out asked them," he said. But he said he was met with blank stares. "Quit hiding all these things," he told the council Tuesday.

For years, city officials have had grand visions for Harbor Boulevard, hoping to cash in on the proximity to Disneyland and the Anaheim Convention Center. As the Disneyland Resort has expanded with Downtown Disney and California Adventure, Garden Grove has capitalized by adding 2,000 hotel rooms and several restaurants.

The city's latest goal is to develop Harbor Boulevard into International West, modeled after International Drive in Orlando, which would stretch from Chapman Avenue to south of the Garden Grove Freeway.

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