Card club wins permanent license

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.

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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