A rule of thumb for the protracted battle between Casino M8trix and the city of San Jose: When things seem to be going swimmingly, introduce new actors to vent into the microphone.
Late last month, the deep freeze of litigation appeared to thaw a bit, when the tower card club announced it was withdrawing its lawsuit against the city. The general consensus was that negotiations between the city and Casino M8trix had improved, and opening the top floor to gaming would soon be complete. For two years, the casino’s crown jewel—an eighth floor with panoramic views and poker tables—has been shuttered due to the city’s concerns about its ability to monitor the action.
The casino dropped its lawsuit in Santa Clara County Superior Court, which demanded compensation for a four-month delay in opening, and asked for a 90-day stay in its federal court filing. Last week, however, the city called the card club’s bluff and filed a motion to deny a stay in the federal case, infuriating M8trix owners and minions.
“It’s almost like the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, or they just want to perpetuate the animosity,” said Sean Kali-Rai, a lobbyist for the card club.
City Attorney Rich Doyle’s response: “That’s lobbyist spin, quite frankly.”
The two-year skirmish between Casino M8trix and the city fits the bill of a diverse fight card. First to square off was former police chief Chris Moore and card club lobbyist Rich de la Rosa, who clashed on the latter’s fundraising role with the police foundation. Then M8trix owner Eric Swallow called out Richard Teng—a police administrator for the Division of Gaming—as a saboteur with conflicts of interest. Swallow later moved on to railing against Ed Shikada, who replaced Debra Figone as San Jose’s city manager and preferred scapegoat.
While M8trix has had some positive things to say about recent interactions with Shikada, Doyle and Kali-Rai aren’t mincing words about a fight that remains, more or less, the same as it began.
“The fact of the matter is there is no connection between the litigation and the permitting process for the eighth floor,” Doyle said. “If they want to use litigation to satisfy concerns, they’re going about it the wrong way.”
“Now that I think about it,” Kali-Rai said, “perhaps it has been the City Attorney’s office that has been promoting if not directly causing all the ill will between the city and Casino M8trix.”
“It’s not that the city is against eighth floor gaming, but we need to be satisfied that the security concerns and concerns about cash handling and [police] access are addressed,” Doyle said. “And in our view, they have not even come close to halfway on that.”