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Gov. Jerry Brown attends L.A.-area casino event for major donor

Governor Jerry Brown made a rare visit to southeast Los Angeles County on Monday for an unveiling of plans for a new casino building in Hawaiian Gardens, a 1-square-mile city bordering Orange County.

It was the second time in little more than a month that the governor has been on hand to celebrate a local casino project, even though he doesn't often make public appearances.

“I come here today because I want to recognize a family and a business that is contributing to the local community,” Brown told reporters and local officials outside the Gardens Casino, gathered inside a tent with a carpet, potted plants and a chandelier.

The casino has contributed to Brown’s political efforts, donating $25,000 to the campaign for his tax measure last year and nearly $40,000 to his campaign for governor in 2010, according to figures from the secretary of State’s website.

The Gardens Casino also has contributed $12,500 toward Brown’s reelection campaign, an effort he has not yet announced.

Last month, Brown traveled to Bell Gardens to mark an expansion of the Bicycle Casino, which has contributed $67,000 toward his gubernatorial campaigns and donated $25,000 to last year’s tax campaign.

Asked about the donations, Brown demurred. “There’s a wide variety of people supporting my efforts in politics,” the governor said after the event.

He added, “The east and southeast part of L.A. County does not get the attention that it deserves from Sacramento, and to the extent that I can remedy that, I try to.”

He credited efforts of businesses like the Gardens Casino, located off the 605 Freeway on Carson Road, with helping to get the state back into the black and out of multibillion-dollar budget deficits.

“This is a city that is working, and our state is working,” Brown said.

The governor cited his family history with card rooms, as he had in Bell Gardens. “I come from a long line of poker players,” he said, launching into a story about his grandfather’s San Francisco poker clubs. “I have a connection to this particular kind of work, and I appreciate it like I do so many others.”

The $45-million project will more than triple the current square footage of the casino. It is to feature a restaurant, sports bar and retail spaces.

Officials in Hawaiian Gardens say they expect the expansion will nearly double the amount of revenue the city receives from the casino. Currently, the casino brings in about 70% of the city’s general fund and is the city’s largest employer, Mayor Victor Farfan said.

“Its economic impact is unquestionable,” Farfan said.

Times staff writer Anthony York contributed to this report.


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