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Mullin may join San Mateo

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Assemblyman Gene Mullin, D-So. San Francisco, said Monday he is likely to oppose a bill from Assemblyman Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, that would allow a new type of gambling at seven California racetracks, including Bay Meadows.

The San Mateo City Council has already voiced strong opposition to AB 2409, which would legalize machines that allow betting on 250,000 historical races. During a legislative update session Monday, council members asked Mullin for his support against the bill.

“My allegiance is always with San Mateo County,” Mullin told them.

Like the council, Mullin was not contacted by Yee's office before the bill — an overhaul of one originally authored by Assemblyman Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, that would have allowed satellite wagering on out-of-state horse races — re-emerged in the Assembly on June 20. Mullin said he was disturbed bythe apparent lack of cooperation from the man who could become the district’s next state senator.

The bill, scheduled for its next legislative hearing in August, comes at a time when San Mateo is moving ahead with plans to redevelop the racetrack site into an 83-acre mixed-use neighborhood.

“Twice, our voters said they don’t want enhanced gambling; in 1995 when they voted against card rooms at Bay Meadows, and in 2004 when they voted against slot machines,” Mayor John Lee said. “We don't want ‘racino’-style gambling at Bay Meadows.”

Fellow Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, D-Redwood City, voted in favor of the Calderon bill but has not yet looked at Yee’s version, according to aide Pete Hartnett.

Other groups, such as the California State Labor Federation, were contacted by Yee and are supporting the bill. But the local subsidiary, the San Mateo Labor Council, while formally forbidden from opposing the bill, is not actively supporting it, according to Treasurer Shelly Kessler.

Yee’s bill also has the support of the Bay Meadows Land Company and the Save Bay Meadows coalition, according to Yee aide Adam Keigwin. Yee said he hopes it will eventually find favor with the City Council as well, and he has argued it could bring as much as $3 million more a year into city coffers and help the racing industry.

“We were trying to bring all sides together when they have historically been at odds,” Keigwin said. “Hopefully we can come to some agreement, but the reality is that the horse-racing industry is struggling across the state.”


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