One: Opponents of the License Testify
The California Gambling Control Commission held its second public
hearing on the application of Irving Moskowitz for a casino
license on January 9th. Representatives of our Coalition for
Justice in Hawaiian Gardens and Jerusalem as well as members
of the public whom the Commission was unable to hear on December
18th, testified against awarding the license to Moskowitz.
In Hawaiian Gardens, Moskowitz operates a bingo
hall in addition to the casino and he controls the government
for the benefit of his gambling operations. 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 militant anti-peace organizations.
(For more background information, please read our illustrated
After hearing the testimony and a rebuttal by Moskowitz's representatives,
the Commission announced that it will consider the matter at
one of its February meetings. While the opportunity to testify
on the license is over, Commission Chairman Arlo Smith said
they would take written submissions. (Contact information for
the commission is at the bottom left of its home page, www.cgcc.ca.gov)
Here we summarize the testimony opposing the license. In a later
posting, we will summarize the remarks of the pro-Moskowitz
speakers and respond to untrue statements they made in their
rebuttal to our testimony against licensing Moskowitz.
Father Chris Ponnet of St.
Camillus Catholic Church at Los Angeles County Hospital-USC,
represented Bishop Joseph Sartoris (ret.) of the Church's San
Pedro Region in which Hawaiian Gardens is located, as well as
the priest of Hawaiian Garden's local Catholic Church. He told
the Commission that they are unhappy with the location of the
casino near a city park, a school, as well as the Catholic Church-but
they were also afraid to speak out in public. Father Ponnet
related that the Church did not see funds from the Moskowitz
bingo being used for significant local needs, since most of
the money goes overseas where it damages Arab-Israeli relations.
Louie Lu, who is suing Moskowitz's
Hawaiian Gardens Casino for firing him when he resisted demands
to pay for his dealer job, told the commissioners that, before
he turned to the National Labor Relations Board, which issued
a complaint on his behalf, he sent audiotapes and documents
to Moskowitz Attorney Beryl Weiner. He said he also gave the
evidence of job-buying and loan-sharking at Moskowitz's casino
to the California Department of Justice's Gambling Control Division.
Doug Mirell, an attorney
and immediate past president of the Progressive Jewish Alliance,
said: "Much of Moskowitz's financial support for houses
for hardline opponents of any realistic peace settlement comes
from his bingo operation in Hawaiian Gardens, a poor and predominantly
Latino city in Los Angeles County." He expressed the PJA's
concern over Moskowitz's use of non-profit bingo funds in his
private, for-profit businesses. (The full text of Mirell's remarks
are at www.PJAlliance.org.)
Claire Gorfinkle speaking for the Coalition, focused
on the lawsuit that the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational
Fund (MALDEF) filed against the Moskowitz Foundation, through
which Moskowitz runs the bingo, to recover lost wages for the
mostly Mexican immigrant bingo workers whom Moskowitz pays nothing
but tips. In glaring contrast to Moskowitz's six figure salaries
from the foundation, she said, is the way he takes cruel advantage
of a state law to deprive the workers of wages.
Rabbi Jerry Goldstein, a
staff rabbi of the Southern California regional office of the
Union for Reform Judaism, serving Reform Congregations in North
America, spoke for the Coalition, stating that its work to oppose
Moskowitz's activities had the backing of the 1700 members of
the Central Conference of American Rabbis. Goldstein compared
this legitimacy with the rantings against Coalition Co-director
Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak by Moskowitz backer Max Kessler (which
we'll report in our next email).
Rabbi Shmuel Miller, of
the Midrasho Shel Shem academy for biblical and Talmudic study
related his experience in Jerusalem last year. He told of how
shocked he was when some students recounted their "pogrom"
against Palestinians, conducted in the company of students of
the Moskowitz-supported settler yeshiva Ateret Cohanim. "They
were bragging about knocking down doors, breaking windows, terrorizing
women and children," he said. Miller suggested that stopping
the flow of Moskowitz's money to such violent groups would help
alleviate the problem of hate.
Mina Meyer, a former Long
Beach Human Relations Commissioner and a founder of the Coalition,
described the research and early work of the Coalition, as we
came to understand the nature of Moskowitz's control of the
City of Hawaiian Gardens. "While Moskowitz himself is seldom
seen in the area," she said, "he has a local attorney
to do his bidding, and when I attended public Hawaiian Gardens
City Council meetings this man was not only in attendance but
clearly directed the council people and went into chambers with
here to read Meyer's statement.
Professor Sharon Raphael,
a California State University Dominguez Hills professor also
spoke of observing Hawaiian Gardens City Council meetings, which
she monitored for the Coalition in 2000 and 2001. "Irving
Moskowitz has used his attorney Beryl Weiner to control and
run the City in ways that benefit Moskowitz 's interests. Members
of the City Council clearly appeared to check with Weiner before
stating their views on issues [relating to Moskowitz's interests].
It is a terrible shame that any person should have such incredible
control over a poor tiny impoverished city like Hawaiian Gardens.
Whatever gifts or moneis Moskowitz gives to charities in the
city cannot ever compensate for the opportunistic and self-serving
means to his own ends that he has imposed on this
of his." Professor Raphael told of the Moskowitz-dominated
Council's use of the Sheriffs to silence opposition. Click
here to read her complete statement.
Carol Greenberg, speaking
on behalf of the Coalition, noted the peculiar arrangement of
the Tri-City Hospital, which Moskowitz owns but converted to
a non-profit. He then gave it several million dollars from his
Moskowitz Foundation-run bingo-and promptly charged it the same
amount in rent. Greenberg asked the Commissioners to imagine
what kind of wonderful opportunities - such as schools and libraries
- the approximately $30 million Moskowitz gave to violence-prone
Israeli settlers could have financed for the poor of Hawaiian
Professor Terry Winant of
California State University - Fresno, and the Fresno Interfaith
Alliance, focused on the question of character, suggesting that
a real philanthropist is one who makes charitable donations
for the good of the community, not for the good of the donor.
She said that Dr. Moskowitz is entitled to engage is as many
moneymaking opportunities as he wants, but in Hawaiian Gardens
he uses the facade of non-profit status to move money from one
of his entities to another, to create the illusion that the
bingo and its profits are good for the people of Hawaiian Gardens
when in fact, the City has been turned into a private fiefdom.
Charles Greenberg, a retired
attorney and Chair of the Planning Commission of Long Beach,
spoke for the Coalition. He said that he originally thought
that Moskowitz could make a positive difference in Hawaiian
Gardens. But, as Moskowitz's casino project unfolded in Hawaiian
Gardens, it displaced the regionally popular Plow Boys Market.
Greenberg said that Moskowitz's actions in shifting to the casino
from the original purpose for which he got public redevelopment
funds - a supermarket - showed that his character did not measure
up to the gambling code's requirement that applicants be of
Until the end of October 2003, Ron
and Linda Silverman operated a food concession in
Moskowitz's bingo. Then he suddenly fired them, pushing them
out without much of the money they'd deposited and invested
in the operation. "We thought Moskowitz was a man of his
word but we found out differently as lots of others have, too,"
said Ron Silverman, who spoke for the couple. "We feel
we were mistreated by the bingo operations but we were not alone.
The Latino workers employed by the bingo as runners and other
positions also were treated badly. Workers were told they could
not speak Spanish in the building and they were not allowed
to congregate." To
read the Silvermans' complete statement, click here. Please also click to see a follow-up communication the Silvermans sent the Commission in April (a PDF file).
Jay Plotkin, the attorney
for the Coalition for Justice in Hawaiian Gardens and Jerusalem,
reminded the Commissioners that the "charge imposed upon
you is to protect the public interest" and to determine
whether the applicant, Moskowitz, "is a person of good
character and integrity." Plotkin suggests that, in order
to properly investigate the allegations raised by the Coalition
and others, the Commission might consider referring the case
to an administrative law judge.
Eugene Hernandez, speaking
on his own behalf asked what the reaction of the public would
have been if Moskowitz were a wealthy Arab funding the Palestinian
Intifada the way Moskowitz funded the settlers. "He would
have been crucified," Hernandez answered. Then he asked:
"Should Moskowitz have to register as an agent of a foreign
country?" Referring to Hawaiian Gardens senior citizens
who spoke in favor of the casino and enjoy Moskowitz-funded
programs, Hernandez said "It is sad when senior citizens
can be bought-out by a turkey."
Bill Floote rose from the
audience to relate his experience teaching in the West Bank
and frustration he felt as he saw the money diverted from Hawaiian
Gardens community to the violence he witnessed in the occupied
The Coalition's Honorary Chairman Ed
Asner came to the floor to conclude our presentation.
He recounted the numerous lawsuits and a business that Moskowitz
failed to disclose on his gambling license application. He said
that "we, as private citizens" cannot investigate
the nature of the cases and the business, "but the Commission
certainly can, if it believes that Moskowitz's simple act of
disclosure is not sufficient reason to deny his license application.
We respectfully ask this Commission to consider this long list
of Moskowitz's failures to disclose required information, both
in its own right and as an apparent expression of his contempt
for the law under which he seeks a permanent license for the
Hawaiian Gardens Card Club. We urge you to deny him that license."
here to read our summary of the December 18th hearings.
here to read news coverage of the hearings.