The Lodi City Council took the first step toward allowing the only cardroom in Lodi the option to open up for 24 hours a day and give credit to players.
The Wine Country Cardroom on Cherokee Lane asked for six changes to the city's cardroom ordinance.
Before the council can make any decision on the cardroom's requests, the state has to approve the changes, City Attorney Steve Schwabauer said.
The council voted unanimously to send the potential changes to the Attorney General's Bureau of Gaming Control for approval, he said. If the state agrees to the changes, then the cardroom will still have to get approval from both the Lodi Planning Commission and the Lodi City Council.
One of the main changes is that the cardroom wants to switch from set hours every day to a weekly cap of 140 hours.
Under the current ordinance, the cardroom is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 4 a.m. Schwabauer said the owners would like to be able to do tournaments and keep them going for 24 hours at a time.
"Apparently, that's something that is common in their industry and a key to their success," he said.
The change will help the cardroom match the way people play, said Steve Snider, one of the cardroom owners.
"The bewitching hour comes and you throw 20 people out of your cardroom because it's time to close," he said.
The cardroom would like to be able to accept personal checks and issue credit under the guidelines of state law, which are extensive, Schwabauer said.
"It is heavily regulated. The book of regulations governing it by state law is not something I would like to read," he said.
Snider said many people think this change is for small gamblers or so people can cash their paychecks. In reality, it is for people who do not want to walk in and out of the cardroom with large sums of cash, so they would rather cash a check or get credit.
Cardroom owners would also like to add two more tables and eliminate the limits on the number of players per table. In order to add the new tables, the cardroom would also need to allow gaming in any room with an exterior unlocked door, as opposed to the current requirement that all card tables and players are plainly visible from the front door.
The owners plan to take some space from the dining area to add the extra tables because it is already a tight fit in the cardroom, Snider said.
"It's hard to push a cart between the tables at some parts, so we are trying to open it up and make it a more workable plan," he said.
While the dining area is popular, it is not where the cardroom makes its money, Snider said.
Councilman Larry Hansen said he has talked with the owners and understands they want to focus more on the card tables.
"I've been told that your restaurant is a loss leader. There's a reason for having that, but it's financially impacting your business," he said.
The final change is that the cardroom owners would like a cap on the fees they pay to the city.
The cardroom is currently required to give 9 percent of its revenue to the city to go into the General Fund, which pays for most of the city's services, like police, fire and library.
The revenue for 2010 was $310,887. The projected revenue for 2011 is $358,520.
The cardroom would like to cap revenue contributions at $20,000 for the first $240,000 of gross revenue received through operations. After that amount, the owners recommend that they give the city 4.5 percent of gross revenue.
With the change, the fee for 2010 would be $35,443 less for the city. For 2011, it would be $59,260 less.
The owners would like to use the extra revenue for more advertising and promotions, Snider said.
Councilman Bob Johnson said he received an interesting call from a Lodi resident asking why the city would ever agree to accept less money from a business.
"Do we see a bright spot on the horizon where if we past this, we might lose revenue in the short-term, but it will grow the revenue in the long-term?" Johnson said.
Snider said if the cardroom's revenue does grow through marketing then it will be a benefit for the city. But he said the other reason the cardroom is asking for the cap is because the city fee is a financial strain currently.
"There's a danger that under that tax burden, we won't make it at all. The downside is if it's not a money-making business then it's not going to be around to tax," Snider said.