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Anti-Gaming Measure to Draw Cudahy Voters to Polls Once Again

Times Staff Writer

The council election is over in this tiny city. Nonetheless, the campaigning has just begun.

In four weeks, city voters will once again go to the polls, this time to decide whether to make gambling illegal in Cudahy.

Leaders of the anti-gambling drive, who unabashedly admit that their goal is to shut down the newly opened Silver Saddle Casino, are predicting that residents will overwhelmingly rescind a 1982 ordinance permitting gaming clubs in the mile-square city.

There is a reason for such confidence--a slate of three anti-gambling candidates swept to victory in this month’s City Council election.

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Tom Thurman and Bill Colon joined incumbent Joseph Graffio to nab the three openings on the council, displacing Mayor Faye Dunlap and Councilman Lynwood Evans, longtime supporters of the Silver Saddle Casino.

“The victory of those three candidates is a mandate against the card club,” said Councilman John Robertson, a staunch gambling opponent. “It makes me all the more confident the ballot issue is going to pass on May 13.”

‘Just Fed Up’

Others echoed him. “People were just fed up with Lynn and Faye,” said Georgia Scrivner, the 70-year-old woman who is leading the push to make gambling illegal in Cudahy. “They haven’t cared anything about the people and the problems of the city. They just concentrated on the poker parlor.”

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But gambling supporters say they have not given up.

“I think the people of this city will vote to retain gambling. If they’ve got any smarts they will,” said Evans, who plans to work to defeat the anti-gambling initiative. “The card parlor is a reality. It’s producing revenue for the city.”

Dunlap agreed. “I’ll really feel sorry for the people of Cudahy if that ballot measure is approved,” she said. “They’ll be cutting off revenue for the city. To put it bluntly, they’ll be cutting their own throats.”

But right now Dunlap has more on her mind than the May 13 ballot measure. In the April 8 contest, she finished a scant four votes behind Colon.

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With the decision so close, Dunlap said, she is asking for a recount. “I’m not finished yet,” she said. “Life is a gamble, so let’s go for it.”

Fundamental Power Shift

Even if Dunlap manages to eke out victory in a recount, the recent election still represents a fundamental shift of power on the council, giving anti-gambling advocates allies in Robertson, Graffio and Thurman.

Thurman was the top vote-getter with 471, followed by Graffio with 456 and Colon with 395. Dunlap and Evans had 391 and 340 votes, respectively. Planning Commission Chairwoman Valerie Hansen trailed with 310 votes.

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Robertson said he and the other gambling opponents on the council plan to thoroughly review the Silver Saddle Casino’s operations to determine whether any violations have occurred under the terms of its business license. Violations could prompt the council to consider revoking the license and shutting the casino down.

Such an action would likely be necessary if the city is to be rid of gambling. Even if voters approve the anti-gambling ballot measure, the Silver Saddle Casino would probably be unaffected because it is already operating, Robertson said.

The council, however, may never have to take that step, Robertson said. A title company is in the process of foreclosing on the club’s two-acre site because casino promoter Charles King has fallen more than $60,000 behind in mortgage payments. The foreclosure auction is set for April 21.

Says He’ll Fight

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Despite repeated phone calls, King could not be reached for comment. In past interviews, however, King has expressed confidence that he would not lose the property to foreclosure. The casino promoter also indicated that he would vigorously fight any efforts by the city to shut down the club.

Planned as a 100-table poker palace in 1981, the club opened to little fanfare two months ago with four gaming tables inside a cinder-block building in south Cudahy that once housed an automobile smog-control station. King has said, however, that he plans to expand the facility to accommodate 40 tables.

Robertson questioned where King would get the cash to pay for the club. Since it opened in mid-February, the club has reported about $13,000 in gross revenues to city officials, Robertson said. With that sort of income, Robertson also raised doubts that King will be able to pay the city the $10,000 monthly fee as required under the gambling ordinance.

Even if the casino remains open, Thurman said, the new council, which was installed on Tuesday, will not be as cooperative with King.

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“Chuck King is not going to get the ordinance revised or get taken care of as he has with past councils,” Thurman said. “We have a gambling ordinance and he’ll have to live up to it or pack up and move out.”

In the meantime, anti-gambling proponents will have to work hard to garner victory on May 13, he said.

“The groundwork has been laid for May, but we’re still going to have to hit the pavement running,” Thurman said. “Supporters of gambling are not going to go down and die. They’re going to come out with a vengeance to try and save what they’ve got.”

Cudahy Results

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4 of 4 precincts

Vote % Tom Thurman 471 19.9 Joseph Graffio (Inc.) 456 19.2 Bill Colon 395 16.7 Faye Dunlap (Inc.) 391 16.5 Lynwood Evans (Inc.) 340 14.3 Valerie Hansen 310 13.4


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