Summary of the December 18, 2003 California Gambling Control Commission's Hearing on
Whether Moskowitz Should Receive a Permanent Casino License

Our report on the Gambling Commission's December 18th hearing on Moskowitz's license application

Part One: We present our case to the Commission


The long awaited hearing of the California Gambling Control Commission on Irving Moskowitz's gambling license application took place yesterday, December 18th. We believe that the speakers for our Coalition for Justice in Hawaiian Gardens and Jerusalem made a very effective presentation of our arguments against giving Moskowitz a permanent license to run his Hawaiian Gardens Casino. So many of our allies -- and people we hadn't even known about - signed up to testify against granting the license that the Commission continued the hearing until January 9th.

We'll give you the list of speakers and highlights of what they said in a moment. But first we want to share with you information we publicly disclosed for the first time at the hearing.

We disclose secret Moskowitz dealings. During our summary yesterday of the submission we previously filed with the Commission, we disclosed that we have documents proving that Irving Moskowitz was secretly negotiating with two southern California card clubs, offering them the opportunity to become substantial shareholders in his Hawaiian Gardens casino. We stated that we also have state gambling license applications Moskowitz filed at the time he was negotiating with these card clubs, on which he failed to disclose this effort to acquire these new business associates. That violates a key element of state licensing law. In fact, the documents show that Moskowitz was proposing this deal to the other casinos in exchange for their help in getting a state gambling license!

We had highlighted this secret deal in our written submission to the Commission and were very heartened to see that the commissioners listened attentively to our testimony about it, which was presented by Jane Hunter.

Our Coalition speakers. (There was not time for all of our speakers to make their presentations; those who did not will testify at the hearing's continuation on January 9th.)

Honorary Chair Ed Asner focused his remarks on the urgent need for Israeli-Palestinian peace, saying the Coalition members were the "white hats" in the quest for peace, while Moskowitz was the "black hat," and should not be granted a license.

Honorary Chair Wallace Albertson emphasized Moskowitz's disregard for the needs of Hawaiian Gardens residents, especially the health needs of the young. She called the commissioners' attention to his use of the hospital for stomach stapling rather than delivering babies or providing charity care.

Coalition Co-director Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak introduced our organization and outlined our case against granting Moskowitz the privilege of a gambling license. He emphasized Moskowitz's abuse of Hawaiian Gardens, which gave him two gambling monopolies. (Moskowitz runs a bingo in Hawaiian Gardens which he uses primarily to fund virulently anti-peace Israeli settler groups.)

Coalition Co-director Jane Hunter summarized the written submission we filed with the Gambling Control Commission in November. In addition to the secret options agreement, she spoke of: the improper siting of the casino; Moskowitz's distortion of the initiative election that authorized his casino; Moskowitz's corruption of Hawaiian Gardens; Moskowitz's failure to disclose significant litigation and a business that may have been an undeclared bingo; his hiring of two infamous managers, Ron Sarabi and Eric Chen, who have previously been accused of political money laundering and embezzlement. Hawaiian Gardens Casino employees have accused the two of making them pay to work and loan sharking.

Former Hawaiian Gardens Police Chief Walter McKinney told of how Moskowitz's control of the city and his campaign for the casino sapped the "sparkle in the eye" of residents. He recounted the irony of the often-arrested street gang members Moskowitz paid to campaign for the casino ballot initiative wearing "Yes on Measure A - Save Our Police!" t-shirts. After the casino was approved Moskowitz forced the police force it was to save to disband.

Ray Rosas, former director of Hawaiian Gardens multi-program social services agency, told of how Moskowitz hired street gang members to campaign for the casino ballot initiative and how, when he refused to support the casino measure, Moskowitz cut off the bingo funds which had supported his agency. The agency was forced to close and, noted Rosas, Moskowitz has not replaced the services it provided to the needy Hawaiian Gardens population.

Jay Plotkin, the Coalition's attorney, noted that Moskowitz himself had not attended the hearing and challenged the commissioners to determine "who is the real Irving Moskowitz" and whether that Irving Moskowitz has the requisite good character for a gambling license.

Allies and others speaking against giving Moskowitz a license included:

Ron Silverman, who, with his wife Linda, operated the snack bar at Moskowitz's bingo for almost ten years - until Moskowitz summarily "fired" the couple and refused to give them back a large deposit.

Louie Lu, a former dealer at Moskowitz's casino, who is suing Moskowitz and his casino managers for forcing Lu to pay for his job with a large percentage of his tips. Lu showed the commissioners a complaint against Moskowitz by the National Labor Relations Board prompted by his case.

Arthur Stern, representing Americans for Peace Now, stressed the importance of containing Moskowitz's efforts to block peace agreements. He wished for the continued prosperity of the casino and bingo - under different ownership - and replacement of the Moskowitz-controlled Hawaiian Gardens government.

Jose Sigala, representing former Senate Majority Leader Richard Polanco, called the commissioners' attention to several illegal aspects of Moskowitz's casino development, including a $3.5 million loan Moskowitz forced Hawaiian Gardens to take from him at prime interest rates to finance the casino.

Former Assemblymember Scott Wildman summarized the findings of an investigation into Moskowitz's activities in Hawaiian Gardens that he headed as chair of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee. He noted the investigation's conclusions regarding the impermissible use of public funds to finance the casino.

Part Two: Moskowitz representatives present case

Irving Moskowitz did not attend the California Gambling Control Commission's December 18th hearing on his own application for a gambling license. And, while we're hardly dispassionate, we do not believe that the representatives the controversial settler-funder sent in his stead presented a convincing case for granting the license. Moreover, the only independent witness who testified for Moskowitz spewed extremism, telling the commissioners the Palestinians were "just Philistines" without a history.

Moskowitz's casino is in Hawaiian Gardens, a tiny, majority-Latino, Los Angeles County city, which Moskowitz controls for the benefit of his casino and a bingo hall. In Jerusalem, he uses profits from those operations to thwart Israeli-Palestinian peace by buying strategically placed Palestinian real estate for Jewish settlers and supporting militantly anti-peace organizations.

Moskowitz's casino license application is the first in the Gambling Control Commission's three-year existence to generate significant public opposition. Our report on the opposition to Moskowitz's license is above in Part One, and news coverage of the hearing is at www.stopmoskowitz.org/articleshearing.shtml. In the account of the Moskowitz side's presentation that follows, we have put our analytical comments in italics.

Moskowitz attorney Robert J. Sullivan led off the testimony, saying that the commissioners should not base their decision on political or religious considerations. We believe Sullivan took this tack because he expected us to attack Moskowitz's politics. However, when our turn came, we presented very specific evidence showing Moskowitz's failure to meet the legal criteria for a license. And when we did refer to Moskowitz's political activities we emphasized his constitutional right to engage in them, but pointed out how they have resulted in violence. Sullivan said that Moskowitz's casino is beneficial for Hawaiian Gardens.

He was followed by a representative of Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and a representative of the county deputy sheriff's association, both of whom said that the casino was very good for Hawaiian Gardens, that it had provided good jobs for local people and, thus, lowered the crime rate. We have heard from local people and can see from the casino's website www.hawaiiangardenscasino.net, that it provides mostly minimum-wage, go-nowhere jobs. The Sheriff's Department got a lucrative contract to police Hawaiian Gardens when Moskowitz forced the city to disband its much-loved police department.

Hawaiian Gardens City Attorney John Cavanaugh told the commissioners that Moskowitz has "complied 100 percent" with his obligations under the 1993 contract called a "DDA" that he signed with the city's Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) and had "diligently reimbursed" the CRA for all the costs required by the DDA. Cavanaugh did not mention that the DDA was a Moskowitz-authored sweetheart deal which put the CRA millions of dollars in debt - or that the DDA contains language Moskowitz can use to stop paying the casino taxes on which the city is now totally dependent.

Several local speakers took the microphone to tell the commissioners how much the city relied on Moskowitz's casino. Kathy Frazier, the director of schools for the local ABC School District, voiced appreciation for the casino and programs she said it made possible. Frazier did not say she officially represented the district, whose objections to having the casino next door to one of its schools were thwarted by the Moskowitz operation, as we explained to the commissioners. A representative of a senior citizens' program which Moskowitz supports voiced appreciation for the casino.

Hawaiian Gardens Mayor Betty Schultze and Deputy Mayor Leonard Chaidez, both longtime Moskowitz stalwarts, echoed others' comments about the city's appreciation of the casino and the revenue it provides. Readers can see just how hollow these arguments ring by clicking to read our report, Gambling on Extremism, How Irving Moskowitz took over a small town to bankroll Israel's anti-peace settlers. (PDF) and click here to visit the "Looting Hawaiian Gardens" section of our website.

Deputy Mayor Chaidez said to the commissions: "We beg your indulgence and your positive vote." In our presentation we recalled that, after his 1999 election to the City Council, the council settled for $219,219 a wrongful termination suit Chaidez filed when he was fired from his short stint as city manager. We noted that the matter never appeared on a Council agenda.

In the midst of the local speakers, the Moskowitz side put on Rabbi Pesach Lerner, Executive Vice President National Council of Young Israel New York. Lerner spoke of his personal knowledge of Moskowitz, saying the applicant was a fine and worthy person. Moskowitz has given Young Israel $2.4 million from the Hawaiian Gardens bingo. (Please see www.stopmoskowitz.org/gallery.shtml ) In their book "Murder in the Name of God," Michael Karpin and Ina Friedman write that in the early 1990s Young Israel led other US-based Orthodox groups in the increasingly vituperative opposition to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's peacemaking which, some analysts believe, created the climate for Rabin's assassination.

According to observers, the 30 or so Hawaiian Gardens seniors who comprised most of the pro-Moskowitz section arrived together and moved to and from the auditorium as an escorted group. By contrast, approximately 20 organizations (including our Coalition for Justice) sent speakers opposing the license. Only one person who was not on the Moskowitz side's prepared list of speakers came forward to speak for Moskowitz -- and that man, Max Kessler, was so politically extreme that he may well have canceled out Moskowitz's lawyers' claims that the settler-backer's politics should not sway the commissioners' votes.

Max Kessler asserted that there's "no such thing as Palestinian history. They're just Philistines." He continued: "The Arabs gambled in 1948 and 1967. They wanted all the land. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. The point is the Arabs had a chance for this land in 1948 - they gambled and they lost." He added: "The land Moskowitz buys [to thwart Palestinian aspirations in Jerusalem] is Jewish land that was stolen." Kessler then told the commissioners: "I want you to be on the side of God, the return of the Jewish people is above and beyond history."

He concluded saying of Coalition Co-director Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak: "There's a word for people like the so-called Rabbi Beliak - informers…they are like the Tories of the American Revolution," implying, to some who heard him, that Beliak should be harmed. The Los Angeles Weekly reported in May 2001 that, in a counter-demonstration against Jewish peace groups, Kessler carried a sign that said "Arabs=9/11" and chanted "Death to Arabs! Death to Jewish Traitors!" The Moskowitz organization did not dissociate applicant Irving Moskowitz from Kessler's statements.

The Moskowitz side will have an opportunity to present more speakers and also to rebut our testimony when the hearing continues on January 9th. We also expect to be able to complete our testimony.

We hope you'll continue to visit our website for details as they become available and also to support us with your donations and encouraging emails.


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