SAN JOSE -- San Jose Police Chief Chris Moore on Thursday denied Casino M8trix' plans for eighth-floor gambling in the top level of the $50 million reinvention of the Garden City Casino card room that opened near the airport in August.
Moore's decision, rendered in his last days before retiring this week, was not surprising. His department's gaming administrator had leveled a scathing assessment in November of the potential problems to effectively monitoring multi-level gambling, which also drew opposition from nearby one-story rival Bay 101 Casino.
It's another setback for the card room, which opened four months behind schedule after police permit approval took longer than owners expected. Moore in late July allowed M8trix to open with ground-floor gambling only and said he would consider the top-floor issue later. The card room later filed a claim for damages with the city over the delayed opening.
"We are disappointed in the chief of police's decision because we were looking forward to bringing something luxurious and unique to San Jose and the Bay Area," said M8trix representative Sean Kali-Rai. "The eighth floor gaming would have been the 165-foot icing on the cake, or casino in this case."
Moore would not comment on his ruling and referred to his report in which he concurred with the gaming administrator that multi-level gambling would, among other things, "have an adverse effect on public health, safety and welfare" and on the
San Jose law restricts card room gambling to "a single ground-floor level of each permitted card room or to such other areas of a permitted card room as may be approved pursuant to the card room permit amendment procedure."
Richard Teng, administrator of the police department's division of gaming control, explained in his November assessment that the reason for the ground-floor restriction is to allow for surprise inspections where officers can quickly enter the card room from the street and circulate on the floor before being detected by staff.
Teng's concern was that access to the eighth floor, which offers panoramic views of the city, is available only through two elevators and an interior stairwell.
"The opportunity to conduct surprise, unannounced inspections will be compromised and largely lost when inspectors have to wait for one or two elevators to take them to the eighth floor or climb up 16 flights of stairs in order to reach that floor," Teng wrote.
Once they get to the eighth floor, Teng added, the inspectors would face additional "barriers," including a reception desk and doors that separate the gaming area from the lobby.
The card room argued that surveillance cameras could aid officers in monitoring gambling operations. But Teng countered that surveillance systems are not fail-safe and that the card room's camera and recording equipment has "failed upon occasion." What's more, he said "no electronic surveillance system can substitute for the on-the-spot observations of a trained inspector who is on the premises unannounced."
The card room accused the Police Department of not giving it a fair chance to develop a workable solution. But options for appeal beyond filing a lawsuit are limited as the chief's decision is final under city law.
"There has been a lack of collaboration on the part of the city," Kali-Rai said. "At this point we will re-evaluate our options -- one of them being waiting until a new business-friendly police chief is appointed and try and work with him or her in achieving a win-win solution."
Contact John Woolfolk at 408-975-9346. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/johnwoolfolk1.