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  Card Clubs' Secret Dealings
March 8, 2010

Card clubs' secret dealings

By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Contra Costa Times

Posted: 03/06/2010 06:27:00 PM PST

The secret card club gang bankrolling the disturbing anti-Indian casino ad blitz in Richmond has failed to acknowledge basic city psychology: It's OK for us to criticize us but it's not OK for outsiders to do it.
The eight-page mailer and 30-second TV spot from a group calling itself Stop The Mega Casino features some of Richmond's most unseemly neighborhoods.
The text paints a nightmare scenario, in which the opening of a Las Vegas-style Indian casino at Point Molate will render permanent the presence of drug dealers, loan sharks, poverty and crime.
Richmond residents are outraged. And with good reason. They know they have problems.
And many folks are rightfully concerned about how the city will balance the negative social impacts of a full-blown gambling institution against the economic benefits.
But the last thing Richmond residents want is an overblown depiction of the city as a cesspool from an outside group that won't disclose its members and stands nowhere close to moral ground.
Like casinos, card rooms are gambling establishments, only smaller and with less flashy ways to lose your money. They don't care about Richmond. They don't want the competition. It's pure hypocrisy, plain and simple.
We're told that Stop the Mega Casino is a coalition of a dozen "mom-and-pop" to medium-sized undisclosed card clubs.
The campaign representatives have refused to name the card clubs while simultaneously declaring themselves open.
Their one attempt at transparency is laughable.
On Feb. 11, David Fried, the lawyer for The Oaks card room in Emeryville, registered in Richmond as the representative of a grass-roots lobbyist organization called Stop the Mega Casino.
The form lists as its only activity a $33,900 payment to a San Francisco consulting firm, Whitehurst Mosher, for "advice, signs and media."
So, card room lawyers are grass-roots organizers now?
Richmond City Clerk Diane Holmes rejected the application; The city has no grass-roots lobbyist category.
Stop the Mega Casino may want to look at what happened in Walnut Creek.
Last year, a mall developer secretly sabotaged a competing firm's plans to build a Neiman Marcus department store downtown, claiming it would unleash intolerable parking havoc.
Granted, the availability of $500 Manolo pumps does not inspire the same societal fear as a $20-minimum blackjack table.
But the point is this: The move backfired. The city's voters overwhelmingly approved the high-end department store last year.
When outsiders with blatant commercial self-interests drop into town, voters pull up the welcome mat and lock the front door.