Hawthorne's new mayor was expected to introduce a controversial proposal Tuesday which would allow voters to decide whether to legalize gambling in the cash-strapped city, which is now grappling with a $6 million deficit.
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Dozens of concerned citizens showed up to Tuesday evening's City Council meeting to express their opposition against Mayor Chris Brown's resolution to place a measure on the November ballot that, if approved, would allow a card club, typically defined as a casino without slot machines, to be built in the city.
Brown believes a gaming establishment and the surrounding entertainment district he envisions would create jobs and bring in at least $12 million in tax revenue per year.
"Imagine to be able to go down to the local casino, catch a show and also dinner with your spouse," Brown said. "That's something I envision in Hawthorne."
Brown envisions an upscale development that would include restaurants, shops and gambling. He believes the proposed project would create 1,000 jobs.
"The casino is good I would say, because it does raise money," said Olga Valencia, a long-time Hawthorne resident. "People will have jobs and it's something that's attractive to people - people will go."
But others expressed concern legalizing gaming would attract more crime to the area.
"We are living in an economy where everyone needs money and they want money, and when you have that type of environment it's inevitable," said resident Ann Davis of her crime concerns.
Others felt the area was already saturated with casinos, including two card clubs in neighboring Gardena.
"It's not going to bring any jobs to Hawthorne because we are already saturated with casinos in this area," said Nilo Michelin, a City Council member against the casino proposal. "It's going to bring in crime and corruption into Hawthorne, it's going to exploit the poor, problem gamblers, minorities and seniors."
Michelin also points out a state moratorium which prohibits municipalities from approving any new gaming establishments until 2020.
A "yes" vote by Hawthorne voters would supersede that moratorium, according to Brown.
The City Council heard public comment on the casino resolution, but was not expected to take a vote on the issue Tuesday.