Looting Hawaiian Gardens
Hawaiian Gardens Card Club Faces Legal Wrangle
by Joe Segura
Originally published 24 March 1999
in Long Beach Press-Telegram

Dispute: City Attorney departs saying state law was violated in setting up of gambling enterprise.

HAWAIIAN GARDENS - Assemblyman Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, said Wednesday he wants to review Hawaiian Gardens' card-club development plan to determine whether state law restrictions on public-fund use is being ignored.

The city's Redevelopment Agency has been involved with Irving Moskowitz for the past few years in an effort to build a multimillion dollar card club - and the city's tab has reached about the halfway mark of a potential $20 million bill, according to former City Attorney Julia Sylva.

That could spell problems for the city, according to Sylva, contending that state law - specifically, Assembly Bill 2063, known as the Isenberg Bill - prohibits a redevelopment agency from providing direct assistance to a gambling enterprise.

In a telephone interview, Lowenthal said he's still gathering information on the card-club issue to determine if the state should take action. "I'm going to be very interested in this," said the chairman of the Assembly's Housing and Community Development Committee.

Lowenthal added that should the material appear to merit action, he will have the issue reviewed by the state Attorney General's office. City records show that the Isenberg Bill was one of the issues Moskowitz attorney Beryl Weiner and Sylva sparred over last year.

Sylva indicated in an Oct. 21 letter to Weiner that while state law does not invalidate development contracts in place prior to April 1, 1996, the city's Redevelopment Agency "did not specifically have a contract or agreement" before that time.

Moskowitz's original development agreement was for a major food and drug retail development, and later amended for a commercial development. However, Sylva emphasized in the Oct. 21 letter that the city's agreement did not specify a card club until May 27, 1997. Weiner said the city residents' two-thirds vote of approval on Nov. 21, 1995 on a gambling ordinance, known as Measure A, makes the development agreement legal.

He labeled Sylva's move as a personal vendetta against Moskowitz. "It has nothing to do with the law," the attorney added.

The council members are aware of the potential legal problem, Sylva said, adding that the issue had been brought up repeatedly, formally and informally.

City Administrator Anthony Lopez said copies of the Oct. 21 letter were given to the council, but said no action was taken. He added that the issue needs to be researched by Sylva's replacement.

Deputy Attorney General Ron Diedrich, of the state Department of Justice's Division of Gaming Control, said that Isenberg Bill issues are reviewed when processing a license application.

"That would be taken into consideration on whether a gambling license would be issued," he said.

Copyright 1999, Long Beach Press-Telegram For education and discussion only. Not for commercial use.

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