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Card club wins permanent license

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The California Gambling Control Commission granted Colma’s Lucky Chances card room a permanent license Thursday and found it in compliance with a state-imposed $200 betting limit, even as the club is preparing to fight that limit in court.

Lucky Chances attorney Michael Franchetti plans to go back before the commission to get the $200 cap removed after the certification of an April 11 election in which Colma voters overwhelmingly voted to allow no-limits betting.

If the commission won’t remove the cap, Franchetti says he will file a lawsuit to have a court review the decision. Certification of the election is expected next week.

“They’re willing, of course, to hear us, so it was all I could ask for,” Franchetti said.

The dispute with state gambling officials stems from a 1996 state moratorium on expanded gaming that prohibits increases in betting limits. While Colma voters approved a cap on betting in 1993, before the card room opened, the City Council voted to remove that cap before the club’s opening in 1998.

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The state attorney general did not rule the City Council’s vote improper until after the club had been operating seven years. In December the commission gave Lucky Chances’ a four-month provisional renewal on its permit in response to the ruling, finding that the club needed to adopt a $200 limit to comply with state law.

Dave Hyams, a spokesman for the rival card club Artichoke Joe’s, said certification of the election is irrelevant because of a 1996 moratorium on expanded gaming that includes increased betting limits.

“The $200 limit is still the legal limit … regardless of the election,” Hyams said.

While voters may have supported that limit in 1993, however, they have since changed their minds. Taxes from Lucky Chances funds one-third of the city budget, which includes a new police station, new museum and free cable. This year, the town budgeted $3.8 million from the club for its $12 million 2005-06 budget. It stands to lose $1.8 million of that money if the limits stand.

High-stakes gambling still goes on at Lucky Chances, where bettors can make multiple $200 bets instead of one large one in poker.

kwilliamson@examiner.com

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