Downtown Sacramento’s historic Elks Tower could soon be home to the city’s fourth cardroom after a conditional-use permit was issued for the 14-story building last month by the Planning and Design Commission.
In spite of an appeal from two existing Sacramento cardrooms, owner Steve Ayers will be able to move forward with the project that includes a 24,000 square-foot cardroom, restaurant, bar, and unique features such as a “spirits library,” after a unanimous vote by the city council on Tuesday, according to The Sacramento Bee.
Parkwest Casino Lotus owner, John Park, and Clarke Rosa, who owns Capitol Casino, appealed the decision, after filing a lawsuit against the city last summer in an effort to prevent the cardroom license, which was held by the now-shuttered Casino Royale, from being taken over by Ayers.
A maximum of four cardrooms can operate within Sacramento’s city limits, and after the previously mentioned casino, which operated in North Sacramento from the Red Lion Inn Woodlake Hotel, was shut down in November 2014 by the California Bureau of Gambling Control for allegedly failing to pay off nearly $60,000 in winnings owed to customers, legal concerns began being raised about who would be the recipient of the city’s remaining cardroom license. The two casino owners maintain that because the Casino Royale hasn’t been operational in over two years, its license should be automatically revoked. They say that the Casino Royale license must be awarded via lottery, rather than to a hand-picked successor, according to local news agency.
Commenting on the city council’s vote, Mayor Darrell Steinberg said, “The only ones who opposed (it) were competitors and I get that, but competition is a healthy thing, and to add a use like this will bring a lot of people downtown,” according to KCRA 3 News.
During the city council meeting on Tuesday, Dale Campbell, attorney for Capitol Casino, said, “Mr. Ayers wants to purchase the Casino Royale license and that’s absolutely prohibited,” according to the news report.
Ayers has yet to be granted the fourth Sacramento license from the Department of Justice (DOJ), which is responsible for cardroom licenses. According to Ayers’ team, the license is pending.
The architect for the Elks Tower cardroom project, Peter Dannenfelser, said, on the building’s ground level situated to the left of the main lobby on 11th street, within a 2,000 square foot space, there would be five card tables. Phase two, meanwhile, would overhaul the pool and basement areas of the building, transforming them into a 17-table card room and lounge. Other features would include a brandy room, wine cellar, and port room, along with chocolate and other rare spirits.
According to the news agency, phase one of the project would be ready to debut by the end of November, with phase two seeing completion by the end of next year.
During the council hearing on Tuesday, several people, including Councilman Steve Hansen, praised Ayres and argued that the Elks Tower project was consistent with the city’s efforts to breathe new life into the downtown core, while at the same time providing an estimated 150 to 200 new jobs.
In addition to Capitol Casino and Parkwest Casino Lotus, the Limelight Cardroom operates nearby on Alhambra Boulevard.