Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner’s office is investigating whether criminal conduct occurred at a Redondo Beach fund-raiser for a sports betting initiative proposed by Assemblyman Richard E. Floyd (D-Carson).
One question being addressed is whether donors at the Sept. 25 event--some of whom allegedly included bookmakers--made illegal cash contributions, Deputy Dist. Atty Gail Ehrlich said this week.
Ehrlich, who is conducting the investigation, declined to elaborate. But William Holt, a professional gambler who organized the dinner, said three people who were present made $300 contributions in cash.
State law prohibits cash donations of $100 or more to political campaigns, according to the California Fair Political Practices Commission.
“Any (contribution) of $100 or more has to be in some traceable form, like a money order or a personal check,” said commission spokeswoman Carol Thorp, noting that her comment should be taken as a general description of state campaign law, not as a judgment on the fund-raiser.
Floyd did not return telephone calls to his office. He is trying to collect 600,000 signatures by Saturday to qualify his initiative for the June ballot. He has argued that the proposal, which would allow state-sponsored sports betting throughout California, would raise up to $100 million a year for public programs and put bookmakers out of business.
Holt staged the Sept. 25 fund-raiser at Redondo Beach’s Blue Moon Saloon to help finance Floyd’s signature drive. Holt has said he does not know if bookmakers were present, saying only that he wouldn’t be surprised if some were since the initiative concerns betting.
But the Daily Breeze, which had a reporter at the event, reported that Floyd told the audience that convicted bookmakers could in some cases still qualify to operate state-licensed sports betting establishments.
Reiner has said he became concerned about the fund-raiser because South Bay Municipal Judge Thomas P. Allen Jr. appeared at the event and reportedly praised the initiative while introducing Floyd in a speech to the diners.
On Oct. 9, Reiner said he would not allow felony cases to be presented in Allen’s court, charging that Allen displayed “a heck of a lack of judgment” in appearing to take part in a political campaign. Allen later issued a written apology for his remarks.
Holt acknowledged this week that he received $300 cash donations from three members of the audience and wrote a $900 check to the initiative campaign, passing the funds on in what he thought was a legal manner.
Holt asserts that he did so because the three diners--one of whom, he says, was his daughter--did not have their checkbooks and had not paid in advance.
“I thought it was OK as long as the money was traceable to someone,” said Holt, who was arrested for illegal bookmaking in 1960.
The other two who gave him cash, he said, were J. D. Parker of Riverside and John Hurley of Rancho Palos Verdes. The pair, reached Wednesday, agreed with Holt’s account.
Hurley, the Redondo Beach-based West Coast sales manager for Xyplex, a Massachusetts computer communications equipment manufacturer, says he has never engaged in illegal bookmaking.
But Parker, who said he is a former Baskin-Robbins franchise owner, said he has been convicted in the past of misdemeanor bookmaking. Parker declined to answer whether he is still a bookmaker.
“Well, I’d hate to answer that, though I have done that for sure,” he said. ". . . If I was, I wouldn’t tell you that anyway.”
The FPPC had opened its own investigation of the Redondo Beach event, Thorp said, but closed it last week when the district attorney’s office told the commission that it had an “overriding interest” in the case.
According to Ehrlich, such moves are not unusual.
“If there’s a situation where we think there’s a potential for proving criminal conduct, we let (the FPPC) know we want to take a look at it before they handle it,” Ehrlich said.