Block Agrees to Suspend Asian Card Game Raids
Los Angeles County Sheriff Sherman Block agreed Thursday to stop raiding Asian card games at area clubs until a court determines the legality of the games, which, their supporters say, significantly contribute to the economic bases of the cities in which they are played.
Lawyers for the city of Bell Gardens, the Bell Gardens Bicycle Club and California Commerce Club asked Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kurt Lewin to issue a restraining order to stop the arrests.
Lewin said he saw no reason for the “rush” to shut down the games, since they have been played for several years. At the judge’s urging, Deputy County Counsel Kevin Brazile obtained an agreement from Block to suspend enforcement until a Feb. 9 hearing before Lewin on the legality of the games.
David Chodos, a lawyer for the Bicycle Club, said the agreement means that the clubs can immediately resume play in pai-gow, pai-gow poker and pan 9.
Tuesday night, sheriff’s deputies closed down 65 tables and halted play at six of the county’s seven casinos, including the Bicycle Club, the Commerce Club, the California Bell Casino in Bell, the Huntington Park Casino and the Normandie Club and the El Dorado Club in Gardena.
As a result of the action, 3,000 people have been laid off at the card clubs, Chodos said.
Bell Gardens City Manager Claude Booke said in a court declaration that closing the games costs the city $16,700 a day in revenue.
“This loss . . . will, for each day it continues, seriously impair the ability of the city to meet its financial obligations and to perform essential services,” Booke said.
He said the city is expected to collect $9 million in tax revenue from card club games in fiscal 1988-89, of which 60% is generated by the Asian games.
Brazile argued that pai-gow and the other Asian games were operating illegally because state law prohibits games in which the club takes a percentage of the pot or “banking games” in which someone operates as a banker-dealer, even if that role rotates among the players of the game.
Chodos responded that in a Nov. 29, 1988, appellate court decision, a justice wrote, “It is clear, under the present facts, pai-gow is not a banking game as proscribed by the Penal Code.”
However, the court concluded that the clubs were illegally collecting fees from Asian games based on the amount wagered or won by the participants. The clubs then began charging a flat table rental fee before the game is played, such as they charge in poker games.