Legislation that gambling critics said would benefit Colma’s Lucky Chances
Casino and hurt a competing gambling house, Artichoke Joe’s, has been
defeated in the Senate in a 15-11 vote. The measure, SB 1198 by Sen. Dean
Florez, D-Shafter, the chairman of the Governmental Organization Committee,
needed 21 votes for passage in the 40-member Senate. Senators gave Florez
the right to have the bill reconsidered at a later date.
Under current law, increases in wagering limits are construed as breach of
California’s moratorium on the expansion of gambling. Florez’s bill would
remove wagering increases from the moratorium, pending the approval of local
governments and a review by state law-enforcement officials. Under Florez’s
bill, the ordinances would be subject to review by the Division of Gambling
Control, which was created by legislation that Lockyer authored when he was
in the Senate.
Backers of the legislation included state Attorney General Bill Lockyer,
whose staff said the measure would help law enforcement better regulate the
current patchwork quilt of card-room ordinances. The bill would “provide a
level playing field for all affected local jurisdictions,” according to an
analysis by Lockyer’s office.
The bill favors the position of Lucky Chances, which supports unlimited
wagering but has been involved in legal and political disputes over the
issue. Lucky Chances is a major contributor to Colma’s government coffers,
providing some $3.7 million annually to the town in tax revenues, about
one-third of the town’s total budget. Capping Lucky Chances’ wagering limit,
which Artichoke Joe’s argues is required under the existing moratorium,
could cost Colma up to $1.8 million annually.