Chau disagrees with council position on social gambling

Sean C. Morgan

T owner Frank Chau understands the City Council’s perspective on social gambling, but he believes the council’s fears have no foundation.

The City Council chose not to change its ordinance to allow social gambling at the request of Chau. The change would allow businesses to host social gambling events, but it is not permitted a cut nor use a house dealer. The businesses can sell food and drinks.

“I kind of suspected that they were going to be negative about it,” Chau said. The council was not open to new, innovative ideas to help the local economy.

“I understand in their perspective there’s fear of more increases in crime,” Chau said. “In actual reality, as a business person, my point of view is a little different.”

Fights and crime occur with poverty, Chau said. Lake Oswego’s upscale neighborhoods don’t deal with the same crime problem Sweet Home does.

“Crime comes along with poverty not because of events like Texas Hold ‘Em poker tournaments,” Chau said. Two councilors wanted to give it a shot, limiting permits to one event at a time, to see if any incidents would occur as a result of allowing social gambling.

The council also said it was concerned about other businesses opening social gambling.

Chau points to Lebanon where the Pizza Factory holds poker tournaments.

No other establishments there have opened tables for gambling, and it has caused no problems for Lebanon.

Problems are caused by persons who are not at an establishment for the game, Chau said. Serious players don’t cause problems. They’re interested in the game.

Chau looks beyond selling food and beverages to players to make his profit.

“In order for me to make a profit is to draw people in from neighboring towns,” Chau said. He wants to draw participants from Salem, Eugene, Corvallis, Lebanon and Albany through a regional tournament for world-class poker. The tournaments would be overnighters and provide traffic to other businesses.

He envisions two tournaments a month, with buy in at $100 and some smaller tournaments with a $15 buy in.

“In the end, poker players want to compete at the world poker series,” Chau said.

He doesn’t believe that smaller tournaments at other venues would cause any of the problems the council is concerned about either, not if the business is run well and players are not over-served.

Chau and other businesses have incentive to avoid problems. They don’t want to lose their liquor licenses, state lottery machines or their businesses.

“The key issue is to think economy in Sweet Home because we don’t have much of an economy here,” Chau said. He has come up with an idea that the council has turned down. He asked what each councilor how he or she can help local small businesses.

Chau raised another concern.

“(Dick) Hill is a pastor of a church,” Chau said. Hill had a moral concern about legalizing gambling.

Making decisions based on religious morals sounds unfair to Chau. That should stay in the church.

“That’s why as a citizen of the United States, you have the freedom to choose,” Chau said. “If morality is your issue, you don’t have to participate.”

Hill’s approach is like setting standards for other lives, Chau said.

Further, Chau asked about bingo halls in churches and pool tournaments. Those are all the equivalent of his proposal.

“They don’t even want to give it a chance,” Chau said. If they did and issues came up, Chau would have no argument left, but “no shot? That’s negative.”

“What if I can make this a very, very big deal in Sweet Home,” Chau said. “Sweet Home gets noticed, and Sweet Home gets lots of tourists, like the Mud Flats or Jamboree, every week. What kind of benefit would that be for Sweet Home businesses?”

Lebanon has something going the right way, Chau said. It landed the Lowe’s distribution center. He thinks that’s probably because Lebanon is open to new ideas and willing to accept risk to improve the local economy.

Jim Bean said he could see no benefit to the community, so he could not support allowing social gambling.

In response, Chau said, he is a member of the community. He suggested that if he benefits, the community certainly does benefit, but “they don’t even care about the financial situation of Sweet Home.”

“All I really wanted was a fair judgment and a fair response from the local community,” Chau said. Holding a public hearing on the issue would be the best way to do that.

Jim Gourley said he heard from 55 persons about the issue, and 50 of them said they were opposed to social gambling.

Chau asked who these people were. If he were to ask around his state lottery machines, the result would come out lopsided in favor of social gambling.

“I have nothing against the City Council members,” Chau said. “I just want them to be fair. Sometimes everybody gets used to doing stuff for so long, it’s hard to make changes. I just want them to open their minds and maybe give it a shot. That’s all I ask.”