Bell Gardens

Operators of the Bicycle Club, one of the state's largest and newest card casinos, have filed suit with the operators of three Gardena clubs to allow patrons to play the Chinese betting game of pai gow.

The suit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court last week to prevent Bell Gardens or Gardena city officials or police from closing down the game, which is being played in six of Los Angeles County's seven card clubs. Those include the Bicycle Club and a trio of Gardena casinos--the Eldorado, Horseshoe and Normandie--as well as the California Bell Casino in Bell and the Huntington Park Casino.

In a similar case, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John Cole ruled two weeks ago that it is essentially legal to play pai gow at the Huntington Park Casino--a precedent-setting decision that cleared the way for city officials in Bell Gardens, Bell and Gardena to approve pai gow play at their clubs.

But club operators in Bell Gardens and Gardena aren't satisfied that Cole's ruling protects their pai gow games from prosecution, so they filed their own suit against officials in the two cities and the county. A ruling on a preliminary injunction in the case is expected by mid-February.

The only card club in the county that does not offer the game is the California Commerce Club in Commerce.

Traditional pai gow, a complex betting game using domino-like tiles, is considered illegal by some law enforcement officials because it involves side betting, a form of bookmaking under California's gambling laws.

Some card club owners are counting on pai gow to attract new players and money to the ailing card club industry, which has been hurt by scandal and financial problems in the past year.

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