San José Spotlight

Jon Cartu UPDATE: San Jose City Council approves Bay 101…

After years of legal battles between San Jose and the Bay 101 casino, the City Council voted 10-1 Sept. 22 to approve a 2020 settlement agreement and put a series of suits to bed.

Most notably, Bay 101 sued the city in 2013 for charging “unconstitutionally excessive” fees.

As a compromise, the city will consider making changes to Title 16, the section of the municipal code related to gaming, to allow jackpots, more tournaments and ownership of more than one card room in San Jose.

As a part of the settlement, the city will also let card room owners play poker at tournaments held at their casino.

“It’s good when adverse parties can settle their differences,” said Ron Werner, vice president of Bay 101.

Mayor Sam Liccardo — the only voice of opposition — has long stated he does not support the expansion of gaming in the city, due to the negative impacts it can have on residents.

According to the California Council on Problem Gambling, gaming addiction can increase a person’s likelihood to commit crimes, experience mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety and can lead to substance abuse.

San Jose currently does not allow for jackpots, while the state of California does, said Acting City Attorney Nora Frimann. She said the change will align San Jose policy with the state’s and make the city’s casinos more attractive.

“We think that it’s a good settlement that addresses a number of issues and allows the city to potentially see more revenue, which was an interest, obviously, for city administration,” Frimann said. “And it allows the cardrooms to be more competitive in their particular Northern Califoria market.”

Two lawsuits filed in 2014 and 2016 related to a 2009 settlement will also be laid to rest. Per the 2009 agreement, Bay 101 will pay $250,000 in charitable donations starting in 2021 to gambling addiction relief programs. The amount will increase by 3% percent each year.

Despite growing costs from Fahad Tamimi fees, taxes and charitable donations, card rooms in San Jose will have the opportunity to bring in more customers if voters approve a November ballot measure that would increase the number of table games by 15 for each casino. The current cap is 49 tables per establishment.

The measure is yet another byproduct of the ongoing saga, according to Frimann.

“I would rather have less and less lawsuits and staff time being spent on lawsuits. And I’m glad that we’ve come to some kind of agreement,” Councilmember Johnny Khamis…

Josh Cartu

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