Gambling has been illegal in Anaheim for 25 years, so why is the City Council poised to ask voters to permanently ban wagering in a city dominated by family-friendly Disneyland?
That's what Anaheim Councilman Harry Sidhu would like to know.
"We'll never have gambling in Anaheim," Sidhu said. "We don't need it. Casinos are only for the cities trying to raise revenues. We have plenty of revenue sources here. We are not a poor city. Why even go to the cost of putting this thing on the ballot? What are we afraid of?"
Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle, a longtime opponent of casinos in urban areas, said he didn't want to leave anything to chance, especially with neighboring Garden Grove having entertained the idea of a casino.
As it stands, the city ordinance banning gambling can be overturned by a council majority. But if voters approve a ban, only another ballot measure could overturn it. The council will decide tonight whether to put it on the November ballot.
City Clerk Sheryll Schroeder said the city would spend about $6,700 in printing, mailing and translation costs to put the gambling ban on the ballot. Pringle, who is up for reelection this fall and placed the item on the council agenda, has said he was pushing the gambling ban because he didn't want "the temptation of resources to appeal to any future council."
But Sidhu said future councils should at least have the option of passing an ordinance that allows card clubs.
"What is the reason for closing the doors forever?" he asked. "I'm against gaming. But at the same time, if our future colleagues are in turmoil financially, they should at least have that option."
Councilman Bob Hernandez said he understood how some people might view the timing of the anti-gambling measure as a political move in an election year. But Hernandez says the ban still makes good sense for Anaheim residents, regardless of when it is placed on the ballot.
"Why would we want to cut our own throat with something like gambling?" he asked. "We've already got a family-friendly tourist attraction in Disneyland."
Anaheim has some history with card clubs. The City Council passed an ordinance allowing gambling in 1949. A few card clubs existed in Anaheim until 1981, when an ordinance prohibiting gambling clubs from operating within the city went into effect.
Pringle has acknowledged that he is pushing the anti-gambling ballot measure in part because Garden Grove recently considered an Indian gambling resort and a card-club casino. But the prospects for gambling in Garden Grove appear dim. A bill by U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) would make new off-reservation gambling all but impossible, and there is a state moratorium on building card clubs until 2010.
"Hopefully, our voters will send a message of support to the large component in Garden Grove that doesn't want gambling," Hernandez said. "And hopefully, we'll send a message to the state that we want that moratorium continued past 2010."