Proposal would allow more card tables in Grover Beach

kleslie@thetribunenews.comAugust 7, 2013 

A sign greets people entering Grover Beach.

DAVID MIDDLECAMP — dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

More gambling may be in the cards for Grover Beach in the next few months.

A proposal increasing the number of card tables in the city, removing a requirement for gaming rooms to have alcohol on the premises and allowing those establishments to operate 24 hours a day will probably be adopted by the City Council.

The council voted 3-2 Monday to introduce the ordinance, which bears a resemblance to another failed proposal from more than a decade ago, for first reading. A vote for final approval is set for Aug. 16.

If passed, the number of card tables allowed within city limits would increase from seven to nine, and the maximum number of tables allowed within a single establishment would increase from four to six. Currently, six card tables are licensed in the city, City Manager Bob Perrault said, though only four are actually in operation.

The ordinance would also remove the requirement that all gaming rooms have a hard liquor license, and would allow them to remain open for 24 hours. Grover Beach is the only city in San Luis Obispo County with these two regulations on gaming rooms.

For two Grover Beach businessmen, the proposal is a bit like déjà vu.

In 2001, Gene Stroud tried unsuccessfully to have a similar ordinance passed so that he could open his casino, Gold Rush Casino/Resort. At the time, Central Coast Casino owner David Stearns was outspoken against the proposal, and the changes were eventually denied.

Now in 2013, the roles are reversed. Stearns, who operates four card tables in Central Coast Casino, submitted this most recent proposal late last year. Stroud, who never opened his casino but continues to hold licenses for two tables, submitted an April letter to the city against the conversion.

“Given the lengthy history of the relationship between Mr. Stroud and Mr. Stearns and the City's own involvement therein, Mr. Stearns’ request is outrageous, and more than a little ironic,” Stroud’s lawyer, John Fricks of Ogden and Fricks LLC, wrote in the letter. In 2001 and 2002 “Mr. Stearns … appeared at the City Council meeting opposing the very same ordinance change that Mr. Stearns is now requesting.”

In response, Stearns said he’s “definitely been opposed to some of the things (Stroud) has tried to do, but I’ve always been transparent. … The issue of Mr. Stroud not being able to get a license does not have anything to do with me.” He did not provide further comment on Stroud.

In spite of the conflict between the two businessmen, the council seems more inclined to implement the changes this time around.

“I’m definitely for it,” Councilmember Glenn Marshall, who voted against the proposal at Monday’s meeting, said of the changes. Marshall said he voted against it only because he and fellow councilmember Bill Nicolls wanted to wait for the outcome of an ongoing dispute involving Stroud’s lease.

According to Marshall, Stroud is close to vacating a plot of land on El Camino Real where Stroud planned to build his casino. If Stroud loses the lease, he will also lose his card table licenses because according to city ordinances, card tables are tied to specific locations, not just owners. By extension, Stroud would also lose his vested interest in the ordinances, Marshall said.

Fricks confirmed Stroud may vacate the location but said that should not hold any sway over whether or not Stroud's objection is taken into consideration by the council.

Despite Marshall and Nicolls’ votes against the changes, the alterations will once again be read at the council’s next scheduled meeting Aug. 17. If they pass, they will take effect in 30 days.

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