Thorpe defends card room initiative, admits he’s a leader in the effort

Dear Editor,

When the government fails to act to protect the people, citizens have a right to petition their government for changes. I deeply cherish and understand this right because I defended it for 8-years as a member of the U.S. military. In 2013, the Antioch City Council rushed to issue a gambling license after receiving campaign contributions from a well-connected businessman who soon after plead guilty to money laundering on behalf of drug dealers.

As a result, in 2014 more than 20 Antioch citizens signed a letter to the City Council asking them to close the dangerous loopholes in the City’s card room ordinance. The Council made a halfhearted effort that did not go far enough.

First, the Council failed to change the ordinance to keep card rooms from our churches and schools. The initiative I’m supporting keeps gambling 1,000 feet away from any school, place or worship, alcohol or drug recovery center, mental care facility, park, library or other card room.

Second, the Council failed to restrict the conversion of our traditional card rooms with poker games into mini-casinos. In other cities, card rooms have put in fast paced casino games with super-sized “tables” that can accommodate dozens of players at each table.My initiative requires at least half the card room tables to be used for poker games and no more than 10 players per table.

Third, one of the card rooms in Antioch, Kelly’s, which was going to be used as a front for drug money laundering, was closed by State officials. Under this measure it would stay closed.  This initiative would keep the 19th Hole card room and the games we have now, and allow modest growth unless voters allow more gambling.

And to that end, in December of 2015 the coalition we formed turned in more than 9,302 signatures of Antioch registered voters to enact the necessary reforms. Prior to collecting signatures, our representatives had face to face meetings and/or conference calls with members of the City council. As a matter of fact, one council member signed our petition.

In 2015, when the petitions were circulated, the title and summary on the petitions were prepared by the City and accurately explained how this initiative would change and improve our laws and gambling regulations.

This has been a 2-year effort. No one bullied the Council. Just like no one bullied Councilmember Lori Ogorchock in having a face-to-face meeting with our representative to discuss these efforts. The Council was asked in 2014 to close these loopholes but did not. This is why the voters need to be in control of gambling expansion and not politicians open to influence.

This measure will prevent future City Councils from foolishly pursuing gambling at the expense of other local businesses that better contribute to our overall economy. In that same vein, this should serve as notice to the City Council that enough is enough. We need to attract high-quality businesses to Antioch, not more gambling, smoke shops, 7-Elevens, liquor stores, etc.

The coalition behind this campaign includes community leaders, business leaders, taxpayers and citizens from all over Antioch. Responsible card club owners also back this campaign. They are concerned about ethically challenged casino operators who create a bad image for the entire industry.

Lamar Thorpe

Citizens Initiative Against Gambling Expansion

One Comment to “Thorpe defends card room initiative, admits he’s a leader in the effort”

  1. Allen Payton says:

    If this is Thorpe’s way of attracting high quality businesses to Antioch, he doesn’t know what he’s doing. Talk is cheap. What has Thorpe proposed or accomplished as a member of the Antioch Economic Development Commission to bring business to town?

    Plus, being the front person for an effort by a casino to stop the spread of gambling is oxymoronic. They approached me to be their front person and I flat out rejected them. Instead they found Thorpe who would agree to be their shill.

    This is a complete waste of time, taxpayer money and hopefully, the California Grand Casino’s money, too. It was completely unnecessary, as the council had already voted to reduce the total number of card rooms allowed in Antioch from 5 to 2 – back in 2013.

    By the time they started gathering signatures for this initiative in December, 2015 and lying to the public about who was behind it – one paid signature gatherer told me it was The 19th Hole – there was and still is only one card room operating in Antioch, The 19th Hole, and the Council had already revoked the temporary permit for the one at Kelly’s, last August, because of the illegal activities of the new owner discovered by the U.S. Department of Justice – for which the man plead guilty to last July.

    The state did close Kelly’s but under the previous owner, not the new one. The new owner never obtained the needed new license, which was a condition of the city’s temporary license and he never reopened the place. He tried to buy the one from the previous owner but it expired. So, he had to apply for a new one from the state and never got that far, before his other, unrelated, illegal activities of mortgage fraud and money laundering for a drug dealer, caught up with him.

    What this initiative does is guarantee a monopoly for the one remaining card room in Antioch, eliminates competition for the California Grand Casino in Pacheco, and frankly, is an attempt by Thorpe to further his political ambitions and give him an issue to run on for City Council in November. All because he claims the Council didn’t do enough – i.e. adopt the legal language written by the California Grand Casino’s attorneys, to make it very difficult if not impossible, to approve another card room in Antioch and create more competition for them.

    Open your eyes, folks and see what’s really going on. This is politics, pure and simple and at the expense of the Antioch taxpayers – spending money that could have been used to pay for at least one more police officer, this next year.

    Allen Payton, Publisher

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