John T. Griffith 5:14 p.m., May 22
Cardroom Lobby Flexes its Financial Muscle
There's an interesting story on the possible fate of San Diego's last two remaining card rooms over on KPBS.org.
Seems the Palomar Card Club and Casino and the Lucky Lady Casino may be on their last legs if the city council doesn't find a way to change an ordinance that closes them down for good upon the deaths of their owners.
"Councilwoman Marti Emerald, whose district includes the Lucky Lady, said the rooms haven’t proved to be the nuisances officials were once worried they would be."
“There’s no question that these businesses can be successful. It’s just that we’ve inherited an ordinance that says we’re phasing them out,” Emerald says in an on-camera interview.
The segment goes on the report, "The city has made an effort help out the card rooms. "A council committee recently recommended allowing two more tables at each, for a total of 11 tables per card room."
KPBS adds that the owners of the clubs "are in the beginning stages of trying to change the law."
Because the matter involves San Diego's city hall, with its long history of influence peddling, we wondered, after watching the KPBS story, whether lobbyists might already be at work behind the scenes down at 202 C Street.
Sure enough, according to city lobbyist second quarter registration filings, Palomar hired Southwest Strategies to convince the council to "amend card room regulations in San Diego municipal code."
Southwest, according to the filing, has lobbied Emerald, her staff, along with council members Lori Zapf and District Three's Todd Gloria, and their staff members. The company was paid $1000 by Palomar in the second quarter.
On June 30 of this year, the filing reveals, Southwest Strategies employee A. Christopher Wahl and founder Alan Ziegaus, threw a "fundraising cocktail reception," including "email invitations to business associates and friends" for La Jolla councilwoman Sherri Lightner.
The take was a cool $19,000.
Palomar also hired Arkan Somo Associates, which according to its disclosure filing, was paid $7500 by Palomar in the second quarter to lobby the council to "Amend Card Room Regulation in San Diego," including Muni Code section 33.3908:
"No new partners or shareholders are permitted to acquire any interest in the cardroom upon the death of, or sale by any existing partner or shareholder. A license issued to an individual shall terminate with the death of the individual."
The Somo firm reported lobbying Emerald, Zapf, and staffers from District Eight, and Somo himself reported contributing $500 on June 23 to candidate Mark Kersey, who wants to succeed Carl DeMaio in the fifth district
In 2008, according to city records, Palomar employees gave a total of $2430 to two city council candidates, $270 to April Boling, defeated by Emerald, and the rest to Todd Gloria, who won.
As far back as 2007, a Lucky Lady manager and Stanley Penn, the card room's owner, gave Gloria a total of $540. In 2008, they gave him $470. Penn contributed to $250 to Emerald the same year.