3rd Bid for Casino in Oxnard Sparks Concern : Gambling: Officials say building more than one card club could lead to ruinous competition and no new source of taxes.


A third businessman has taken out application papers to build a card club casino in Oxnard, prompting concerns that there may be a flurry of applicants and that the city may not be able to limit construction to a single large club.

“Theoretically, we could have 15 card clubs in Oxnard if each one of them meets the criteria established by the City Council,” City Atty. Gary Gillig said.

That worries some city officials who say construction of more than one casino might lead to ruinous competition and leave the city with a string of failed casinos instead of a single thriving new source of city taxes.


“That’s what I want to avoid,” said Councilman Michael Plisky, who maintained that he knows of a fourth prospective applicant. “If they (all) meet the criteria, then we’re screwed. . . . If we can’t make it restrictive, we’re going to end up with a couple of dives that turn into real shoddy operations.”

Plisky, the only member of the City Council to openly support a card club, said that he would vote against any casino if the city cannot limit the number it eventually approves.

“That will certainly put the kibosh on it for me,” he said Tuesday.

Since council members first indicated last year that they would consider casinos as a money-raising option, two promoters have submitted applications to build large clubs with about 50 tables and 50,000 square feet of casino space. And now a third--Oxnard businessman Keith Wintermute--has pulled papers with the same intent.

Oxnard could expect to reap between $500,000 and $2 million a year from a single club, with charities getting $500,000, the promoters estimate.

The “hardest question” facing the council beyond the basic issue of whether to allow a casino, Gillig said, is how to sanction one casino while excluding others.

“Unless you have a rational basis for limiting card clubs to one, you may end up with two,” Gillig told a city committee considering the gambling issue this week.


Such a limitation may be possible by establishing criteria so stringent and specific that only one applicant could meet those requirements, Gillig said in an interview Tuesday.

“I think that’s possible through the General Plan and zoning (restrictions),” Gillig said. And some cities have limited casinos to a single location when taking the referendum issue to voters, he said. But such restrictions could easily raise legal challenges through lawsuits.

Officials in Inglewood, a Los Angeles County city where voters narrowly approved casino gambling in November, said that city has not been sued for limiting casino gambling to a single building at the Hollywood Park racetrack.

“Nobody’s raised a legal challenge,” Inglewood City Manager Paul Eckles said. “That (limitation) wasn’t a serious part of the campaign.”

Since gambling is a privilege, not a right, under California law, Inglewood attorneys concluded that the city could place whatever restrictions it wanted on casinos, Eckles said.

When crafting an ordinance to implement the voters’ referendum, however, Eckles said the City Council allowed for the possibility of more than one casino in the same large racetrack pavilion.


Limiting a casino to a single location also had a favorable political effect, Eckles said.

The casino measure had failed badly twice because residents feared a club might be built in their neighborhood. But once the casino’s location was determined, the referendum passed with 51.5% of the vote, he said.

Wintermute, 39, whose Oxnard company produces videos on drug and alcohol abuse, is the most recent businessman to declare his interest in building a card club.

He said Tuesday that he expects to file a formal application by June, but is not yet sure how large his group’s casino would be or where it would be located.

“Right now, the people we’re working with haven’t gotten that far,” Wintermute said. “We have done a demographic study. But it’s all very preliminary.”

Wintermute said he is acting in a marketing and public relations capacity for a group of investors he would not identify.

Wintermute owns Card Productions of Oxnard, which he said has produced videos and films on drugs, alcoholism and AIDS for private companies, government agencies and television.


Wintermute said he and his father-in-law, Charles Brohammer, are working on the casino deal. Brohammer, who is also a partner in Wintermute’s video firm, once served on the county’s alcohol advisory board and helped start several local alcohol recovery centers, Wintermute said.

An Oxnard city committee is reviewing the card club issue, and the council will hold study sessions in June to decide whether the cash-short city should approve a card club to bring in gaming taxes.