Bell Gardens, Commerce, Hawaiian Gardens facing dire financial situation with closure of casinos

CITY OF COMMERCE, Calif. (KABC) -- Officials in Hawaiian Gardens, the City of Commerce and Bell Gardens are asking Los Angeles County supervisors to allow casinos to reopen as the industry sees widespread job and revenue losses.

Those cardrooms and casinos are now closed under the new restrictions that took effect across the county on Monday -- after they spent millions of dollars building outdoor facilities in order to keep operating.

In those cities where a handful of casinos are located, facilities like the Commerce Casino are a key source of revenue and some of the biggest employers. Leaving them shut down, the cities' mayors say, will have a major financial impact on the cities.

Hawaiian Gardens' City Manager Ernie Hernandez says the city is at risk of shutting down.

"We receive over 70% of our revenue from the Gardens Casino. We have already lost 50% of revenue and have laid off over 40% of our staff," he said.

Neighboring cities are in a similar situation.

The City of Commerce says 200 employees have been furloughed and the Commerce Casino has laid off 800 workers. Not to mention the millions in revenue that have been lost, which the cities will never recoup.

"We've lost over $13 million already and that impacts public safety, it impacts our programs for the community so we really need this casino to get up and going," said Commerce Mayor Ivan Altamirano, who believes Commerce Casino has implemented enough health measures to make it safe for visitors.

"So far, our city has projected an approximate $9 million in revenue loss so far. We have already eliminated police officer positions, reduced employee salaries and reduced our availability for other important services for children and seniors, said Bell Gardens Mayor Alejandra Cortez.

Casino operators say if they are given the green light to reopen, it'll only take them a few hours to welcome employees and customers back.
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