South San Luis Obispo County card players might want to spend some time in the mirror perfecting their poker faces, because on March 4, the Grover Beach City Council told staffers to craft an ordinance change to allow gambling houses to increase the number of allowable tables and operate up to 24 hours per day.
The city’s municipal code currently allows for a total of seven card tables in the city, but a particular gambling establishment is limited to four tables—tied to an Alcoholic Beverage Control license for hard liquor that prevents card sharks from playing hands between the hours of 2 and 6 a.m.
Four of the city’s seven available card tables are licensed to Central Coast Casino, a card room connected to Mongo’s Saloon; licenses have been purchased for two tables that aren’t currently in use, and the last table is up for grabs.
David Stearns owns Central Coast Casino and delivered a letter to the city on Nov. 20, 2012, requesting that the council take advantage of a 2010 change to state law that would allow the city to add two more tables to its total arsenal and let individual casinos run up to six. He also asked that the city remove the requirement to sell hard liquor so that he could let games run past 2 a.m., noting that players often leave his establishment to continue playing at the 24-hour Oceana Casino under county jurisdiction.
“I don’t see why I should be the one to be handicapped in that regard,” Stearns said during the council meeting.
Grover Beach Chief of Police Jim Copsey presented a staff report on the potential changes and said Stearns runs a safe and professional card room.
“The police department has not had any significant issues with the casino,” Copsey said. “We don’t expect an increase in problems.”
With two of their rank absent, City Council members Bill Nicolls, Jeff Lee, and Mayor Debbie Peterson supported the changes and directed staffers to write up the new rules, a process that’s expected to take 60 to 90 days, before coming back to the council for further public review and an official vote.
“I’m inclined as a rule to open doors for businesses,” Peterson said.
Even if the rules change, Stearns wouldn’t be guaranteed access to more tables. He’d have to apply to the city and the state Gambling Control Commission and would need to renovate his facility to make room.