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Card Club Backers Say New Proposal Is Possible : Gambling: Investment group says it may make another pitch to Anaheim officials or attempt to place issue before voters.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The backers of a 200-table card club proposal said Wednesday that they were stunned by the City Council’s rejection of their plan, but that they were not yet ready to abandon it.

“It was a surprise,” said James Trow, president of Southland Entertainment Properties, the investment group behind the proposal. “We’re reviewing our options.”

He said the group might make another pitch to the council or take the issue to a city referendum. “I wouldn’t rule any option out at this point,” he said.

A decision by the investors will be made in the next several weeks, Trow said, adding that putting a card club proposal on the ballot is much more expensive than seeking council authorization for the plan.

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As unveiled Nov. 3, the project would include the largest card club in Southern California, a restaurant, a retail shopping concourse, a theater and a corporate convention center.

The council effectively killed the proposal Tuesday by declining to put the issue on any upcoming agenda.

Kim Walsh, a spokeswoman for the group, said the council’s action “was a totally unexpected turn of events.”

As the investors discussed the project’s future at their offices near City Hall, the city manager on Wednesday composed a formal letter to the Southland group, stating that the city would not consider the casino plans.

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Several council members said Tuesday that they hoped their decision would put an end to talk of building a gambling casino in a city that has built its reputation as a destination for family tourism.

However, Trow said he was upset that the investors were not given a fair chance to defend the project before the council.

“Obviously we were looking forward to being able to discuss the project in a public hearing,” he said.

Proponents of the project contend that the card club would be a benefit to the city and could bring $11 million a year into city coffers. That money could be used to pay for more police officers. Furthermore, they estimate that the club would create 2,200 jobs.

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But many city residents were not swayed by those arguments. A number of residents spoke at previous council meetings or called City Hall to complain that the proposal would attract crime and prostitution.

Others were angered by a card-club telephone campaign that lobbied residents to support an “entertainment center” as a way to pay for more police officers. City officials and some residents said the telephone solicitors were deceptive in hiding the card club aspect of the proposal. Trow said that the card club element was mentioned, and denied there was any attempt to mislead the public.


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