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October 24, 2006 > Poker palace stays

Poker palace stays

by Charlotte Flowers - Weston

Residents and business owners of the City of Hayward and surrounding areas poured into City Hall October 17 to argue a historical city council decision. They restlessly waited turns at the podium to express support or opposition to a proposed amendment that would allow Katherine Bouson's gambling establishment, Palace Card Room, to remain in operation in the hands of her three children.

First up was Gary Steinberger, former councilmember candidate, who opposed transfer and extension of the special permit granted Bouson 27 years ago. He expressed support for abiding by long-standing ordinance that once the owner of The Palace Card Club dies, that would put an end to card rooms in Hayward. "The last crime associated with the club was a homicide," Steinberger noted. "That homicide is still unsolved."

Laura Swan, Hayward resident and downtown business owner, saw things differently. "I visited the club and was pleased. I learned how they operate and their vision", said Swan. And with a twist of irony she added, "No one viewed the dot-com craze as gambling. Giving back to the community is important."

In the face of overwhelmingly supportive testimony, Mayor Mike Sweeney stood steadfast against the motion for a number of reasons. "The agreement entered into 25 years ago has been in effect until this evening. Now, when it's inconvenient, we're asked to change things," said Sweeney. "The motion runs counter to millions of dollars being invested to revitalize a community where people live and shop," he added.

Councilmember Barbara Halliday never dreamed she'd be supporting gambling, but this particular case earned her approval. "What has struck me about this whole story is the fact that a woman was left after her husband was killed in a terrible accident, to step up and run the family business well. It's a safe, comfortable place. It does bring people to downtown Hayward and it's what we want, so I will support the amendment", she said.

In the end Bouson prevailed with five "aye" votes. Sweeney and Councilmember Quirk opposed. The Palace Card Room, the only gambling establishment for miles around, may continue operating on an annually renewable permit until the last of Bouson's three children pass away, or close the business.

Also of note, the council approved participation with the state and Alameda County in a land use study of what is known as the Route 238 Bypass Corridor. City manager Jesus Armas told TCV last summer that the city wants to consider how this land might be better utilized. He noted at the meeting that the proposed study will include several public comment forums. Details will be forthcoming.

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