Summary of the January 9, 2004 California Gambling Control Commission's Hearing on
Whether Moskowitz Should Receive a Permanent Casino License

Part 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 brochure.)

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 them." Click 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 …fiefdom 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 Gardens.

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 good character.

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 territories.

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."

Click here to read our summary of the December 18th hearings.

Click here to read news coverage of the hearings.

2003 design by elbop for the Coalition for Justice in Hawaiian Gardens and Jerusalem