SAN JOSE -- Although no local campaign has organized to defeat a card-room-sponsored San Jose ballot measure to allow more gambling, out-of-town groups whose funding sources and interest in the issue are unclear have sent mail opposing the measure to city voters in recent weeks.
The mailings feature images of thugs, police patrol cars and crime scene tape and argue that Measure E on the Nov. 6 ballot would lead to "more crime" in San Jose by allowing the city's two card rooms to have more gaming tables and to offer any game legalized in California.
The groups behind the opposition mail, based in Newport Beach and Rocklin, did not answer interview requests. Publicly available information doesn't suggest why they're interested in defeating a San Jose gambling measure.
But San Jose's Bay 101 card room, which is sponsoring Measure E, suspects the opposition mail is somehow tied to competing card rooms or tribal casinos.
"Clearly it's somebody who's in competition with the San Jose card rooms and wants the gaming dollars in San Jose to play elsewhere," Bay 101 spokesman Ed McGovern said. "If it were a civic group or law enforcement group, they would gladly identify themselves. I'm hoping San Jose voters say we don't want outsiders telling us what to do."
One piece urging voters to reject Measure E was produced by Voters for Responsible Government, a Newport Beach slate-mailer company. Although the piece focuses on Measure E, it also urges no votes on statewide propositions 34, 36 and 37. Voters for Responsible Government and its treasurer, Scott Hart, did not respond to a request for comment.
Documents filed last week with the Secretary of State's office said the mail cost $51,445 and showed that Irvine development company Starpointe Ventures paid $45,450 to oppose the state propositions. But the documents did not identify any outside funding to oppose Measure E.
Other mail pieces were produced by Consumer Alliance for a Strong Economy, a nonpartisan organization formed in 2002 and based in Rocklin, near Sacramento. It states on its website that it "seeks to educate and inform people about public policy issues that impact their businesses, their lives and their future."
The group says its "10,000 members include entrepreneurs, small business owners, farmers and consumers" and that it aims to "educate the public about decisions pending before the legislative and regulatory bodies making decisions that affect small business, farmers and consumers."
Consumer Alliance for a Strong Economy, represented by the law firm of conservative Sacramento attorney Thomas W. Hiltachk, did not respond to requests for comment. It does not mention gambling on its website, where it advocates for market-based health care, pension reform, energy development and state spending restraint.
Consumer Alliance for a Strong Economy's mail pieces do not mention Measure E specifically but argue that "gambling in San Jose means more crime in San Jose."
Though there are no other gambling-related measures on the city ballot, because the mail did not specifically mention Measure E it may avoid requirements to disclose the cost and funding source of the mail, City Clerk Dennis Hawkins said. His office has asked the city attorney to review the law. Hawkins said he made inquiries to both Consumer Alliance for a Strong Economy and Voters for Responsible Government about the recent mail campaigns without a response.
Measure E would allow the city's two card rooms, Bay 101 and Casino M8trix, to have up to 79 gaming tables each by 2014. The city currently limits them each to 49 tables. Bay 101 has committed more than $1.1 million toward its passage, arguing in its own mail that Measure E will improve public safety by providing $5 million a year more tax revenue to restore police, fire and libraries pared by years of budget cuts.
The city's two card rooms together pay $15 million a year to the city from a tax on city operations that voters in 2010 raised from 13 percent to 15 percent while allowing each card room to have nine more gaming tables.
But Councilman Sam Liccardo, who signed the Measure E opposition argument, said the windfall from further expansion is overstated and would be offset by gambling-related crime. He said San Jose card room revenues rose just $200,000 a year since the 2010 measure and that "that bet didn't pay off."
Contact John Woolfolk at 408-975-9346. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/johnwoolfolk1.