On Feb. 14, the Lodi Planning Committee voted in favor of a "conditional use permit" to allow the Wine Country Casino and Restaurant to proceed with its plans to open their doors at 1800 S. Cherokee Lane in April.
This would be a great expansion of gambling in Lodi. This all started last year when the owner of a card room on Sacramento Street approached the City Council about changing the ordinance in Lodi in order for him to move his card room to a larger building and expand his club from six tables to eight, and to allow 10 people at each table instead of seven - almost a 50 percent increase from what it has been.
The City Council approved the expansion last June. Since that time the owner has found a larger location in the building at 1800 S. Cherokee Lane, but in order to occupy the building, the owner had to get a "conditional use permit."
I attended that meeting on Feb. 14, and stood in opposition to the proposal, because we are opposed to any expansion of gambling, but especially in that location. That area is made up of mostly residences, and a few businesses.
The Stone Tree Condominiums are directly across the street from the main entrance to the proposed casino. There are 90 twoand three-bedroom units in the complex with less than 50 percent of them sold at this time. If the casino is allowed to open I think people with families will think twice about buying there. That project will be adversely affected if that happens. In my opinion, I do not believe the people in that neighborhood were adequately informed about what type of business was being planned for that location. I suggested they delay their decision until the people were better informed. The final vote was 3-2 in favor of allowing them to proceed. In favor of the location were Doug Kuehne, Tim Mattheis and Gina Moran.
Opposed were Bill Cummins and Wendel Kiser. Two other Commissioners were absent.
On March 1, CCC appealed that decision back to the Lodi City Council. That's why this letter is late. There are three stages that will take place from this point on. First, the city can either grant or deny the appeal. Second, if they grant the appeal to go forward, they will set a date for a hearing. Then the council will vote for or against the location, and for or against changing the ordinance. I sincerely believe that the council members thought that they were doing the right thing when they voted for changing the ordinance last year.
However, expanding gambling is never a good idea for the following reasons, and this is why we are opposed to any expansion of gambling:
1. Gambling devastates individuals and families
For many, gambling is the same as any other addictive problem, such as alcohol or drug addiction. Hundreds of families will be destroyed in Lodi because of this expansion.
2. Gambling increases crime in the community
Gambling always brings increased criminal activity into the community, attracting local gangs into the business of "loan sharking," drunk driving, assaults, robberies, follow-home crimes, home invasions, rape, increased drug dealing and bad check writing, just to name a few.
3. Gambling cannibalizes other local businesses
Gambling creates no new wealth, and creates no new product. It involves the sterile transfer of money away from other local businesses.
4. Gambling deters new business and depresses legitimate business
Gambling siphons off thousands of dollars from the regular business community.
5. Gambling increases local social and welfare costs
Losses due to gambling weakens the stability of the family, and lowers the standard of living.
6. Gambling corrupts local government
Gambling interests always seek to influence city officials by contributing large amounts of money. In 1998, Indian tribes became the top campaign spenders in California politics. $9.9 million was contributed by tribes to Legislative candidates. $902,605 was give to then Gov. Gray Davis, and $204,901 to Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante, while 18 Legislators received more than $30,000 each for their election campaigns. One Legislator received a record $327,000. Wine Country Casino in Lodi "partners" with the City of Lodi by offering 9% of monthly revenues, which could be between $90,000 and $200,000 per year. That's a very generous offer.
7. Gambling attracts organized crime
From the lips of former mafia member William Jahoda come these words: "Any new form or expansion of legalized gambling always increases our client base."
8. Gambling revenues violate all sound theories of taxation
Gambling revenues are regressive, inequitable, variable and unpredictable.
9. Gambling has a poor record at producing revenue
Studies show for every dollar cities receive from gambling, they will incur three dollars in costs.
10. Gambling produces human desperation
Gambling victimizes the poor. Being raised in a family of nine children where our father was an addicted gambler and an alcoholic, I know about the poverty and the devastation to a family personally. It is not a pretty picture.
Lodi resident Ken Owen is president and founder of Christian Community Concerns, an organization dedicated to exerting a Christian influence in the community.