OPINION: Potential gambling regulations changes could hurt Southland cities

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Pedro Aceituno
Bell Gardens City Councilmember

The State of California has 64 licensed cardrooms that are essential to the economic prosperity of the communities they are located in, as they provide employment opportunities and most importantly tax revenue. Similarly, the City of Bell Gardens depends on the revenue generated yearly by the Bicycle Hotel & Casino. As a lifelong resident and an elected official in the City of Bell Gardens, I know first-hand the critical role that the Bicycle Casino plays in our city.

Forty-five percent of our city’s general fund is generated each year by the Bicycle Hotel and Casino. We rely on this tax revenue locally to ensure the continued operation of many city services for our residents, including public safety and emergency personnel, parks and recreational services, and road maintenance.

Our city is not alone – cardrooms across California, and particularly in Los Angeles County, are an essential part of many city’s operations, providing critical funding. Our neighboring cities Commerce and Hawaiian Gardens also depend on tax revenue generated by their cardrooms, representing 41% and 75% of their city’s general funds respectively.

Our city and the surrounding communities also rely on quality, well-paying jobs created by the Bicycle Hotel & Casino that support our residents and their families. Jobs like these are hard to come by these days, requiring little education or prior training but providing an opportunity for a rewarding career to support a family.

Recently, the Bureau of Gambling Control announced that they were considering changes to cardroom regulations or even possible rescission of popular and lawful blackjack-style games. This is a threat to my city’s prosperity and viability and a threat to the services provided to the residents. These regulation changes could rescind approvals for games that have been played legally, without harm or incident, for over 20 years in our cardrooms. The removal of these popular games, which often represent the majority of a cardroom’s revenue, would negatively impact local jobs and city budgets. It would most certainly force drastic budget cuts in cities like my own where we depend on our local cardroom tax revenue for forty-five percent of our general fund budget.

For example, the tax revenues from the Bicycle Hotel and Casino are equal to nearly the city’s entire law enforcement budget or could easily fund all of our parks and recreation programs on top of many other critical services our residents rely on.

Our city is dependent on the Bicycle Hotel and Casino and is directly correlated to our survival. Unnecessary regulatory changes would negatively impact our city’s residents and our ability as city leaders to provide them with the community they deserve.

The Bicycle Hotel and Casino has been a vital part of the fabric of the Bell Gardens community since they opened their doors in 1984. They are essential to our public services, economy and generously support many local youth with scholarships and our local children’s hospital. Their dedication to uplifting our community has made a difference in so many lives.

As an elected official charged with ensuring my communities current and future well-being, I strongly believe that the Bureau of Gambling Control should not take any action that would adversely harm cardrooms that have continued to operate lawfully for decades. The result of such an action would be devastating to so many hard-working communities like Bell Gardens.

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