Compromise Could Pave Way for Casino M8trix Opening July 20

UPDATE: When will Casino M8trix open?

The standoff between police, city officials and the card room’s owners has lingered for more than three months now, and that’s still the $(insert number here) million question.

The next target date for Casino M8trix’s grand opening is July 20. A permit hearing is scheduled for July 19, and the casino would be allowed to open the next day if San Jose Police Chief Chris Moore deems everything in order.

City officials say they are cautiously optimistic Moore will give his consent, because the casino owners have relented and agreed to open the first floor only while continuing negotiations on how top floor gaming will be managed. But when contacted Thursday evening, Casino M8trix owner Eric Swallow said he had no idea such an agreement was in the works.

“I don’t know what I said to make them think that, but I’m good with it,” Swallow said. “We’ll open that eighth floor at some point.”

Assistant City Manager Ed Shikada said one of the biggest hang-ups to opening the card room—clarifying the casino’s ownership structure—is no longer an issue. But he added that the opening date is still very “tentative,” because some of the city’s permit conditions will be spelled out “in excruciating detail.

“With the history of contentiousness in this relationship,” Shikada said, “I try not to take anything as a slam dunk.”

San Jose Police Chief Chris Moore has said in the past that he won’t let Casino M8trix open until all of his questions are answered. Among them were: Who bankrolled construction of the casino—built at a cost of $50 million, according to owners—and who will have a controlling interest in the future? The chief also wanted to know how the money would be handled during business hours, from tables on the expansive first floor to games in the “open-to-the-public” glass-partitioned eighth floor. And then there were those pesky karaoke permits.

SJPD is now deferring all comments on the situation to the city manager’s office. Meanwhile, Eric Swallow said he’s still confused why the card room remains closed and why there suddenly appears to be progress from something he did.

“Here’s what’s funny: I don’t know why they’re optimistic at this point. It’s all their show,” he said. “They’re the ones that can give us the license, and I’ve always said, ‘Do what you need to do.’ I’ve said that since March.”

Swallow added that he has received “absolutely nothing in paper or online” documenting the city’s problems with eighth floor gaming. The city did notify Swallow that it will not require any more documentation for the time being, he said.

With little in the way of documentation, the real story behind all of this seems to be egos at odds—those within the police department, the city manager’s office and the casino’s ownership group. Otherwise, opening Casino M8trix would have been a rather congenial affair, requiring little more than dotting i’s, crossing t’s and everyone putting their hands on an oversized pair of scissors.

But it’s now July, three months behind Swallow’s projected opening date, and Casino M8trix remains little more than an oversized light bulb for pilots in need of a Mineta airport landmark.

Last week, Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Kevin McKenney ruled that there was no evidence city officials “abused their discretion” in the permitting process, according to the Mercury News. McKenney also said in his ruling that “one could conclude that this process has taken too long (and) been intrusive and duplicative.” That’s not a stellar endorsement.

Swallow has argued repeatedly that the police department has been in over its head when trying to wade through the financials, and he may be correct. Even SJPD officials have admitted that they don’t relish the responsibility of permitting and policing a card room.

However, Swallow’s argument that the financials are simple hasn’t been especially convincing.

If everyone gets past the bad blood of the last few months, though, San Jose could be on its way to becoming the card room hub of Northern Calfironia—excluding Indian casinos. Voter approval of the measure Bay 101 Casino got on the November ballot would increase San Jose’s total number of card tables to 158—fourth most of any area in the state, according to city staff.

Josh Koehn is a former managing editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley.

5 Comments

  1. Yes, and to think that Building Permits were rushed through, thinking that a needed boost to City revenue is imperative. Another example of the coordination by the City in synchronizing its development process.

  2. Every time I read one of these articles about the struggles M8trix has to open, I just hear in my head a whiny nasally voice belonging to Eric Swallow “WHY WON’T THEY LET ME MAKE MILLIONS OFF OF PEOPLE’S ADDICTIONS AND VICES ALREADY!!” Relax. It’ll open. I don’t doubt that the ownership structure of a casino and the delineation of how much money goes to whom is a very entangled web. The city needs to figure out exactly how they run things and what’s best for San Jose and its residents. Eric Swallow, how about letting them do their job, while you focus on improving the cesspool that is your current casino—you know, YOUR job.

  3. The city’s doing just fine. Since the last election I’ve been confident of the direction San Jose is heading. Soon revenue will be pouring in from the club and we’ll be able to open more libraries and such.