Flynt becoming Southern California’s casino leader

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A remarkable man: Larry Flynt was born in 1942 in Kentucky, into a poverty-stricken family, and rose to fame and wealth. He became a highly successful publisher of pornographic materials, most notably the “Hustler” magazine, and strong advocate of civil liberties. His company publishes over 30 magazines.

In 1996, Flynt was the subject of a major motion picture, starring Woody Harrelson, focused on his long battle against censorship; and his autobiography was published, “An Unseemly Man: My Life as a Pornographer, Pundit, and Social Outcast.” In 2000, Larry Flynt opened the Hustler Casino in Gardena, Calif. Earlier, in 1978, he was shot in an assassination attempt, leaving him partially paralyzed.

Flynt has been married several times, most recently to Elizabeth Berrios in 1998, who is often shown in Hustler ads and promoting tournaments.

Controversy

When Flynt opened the Hustler Casino in 2000, it was not without controversy. He had purchased the old El Dorado Casino in Gardena that had closed in 1996. He tore it down, replacing it with the very elegant and modern Hustler Casino, beautifully designed for visitors to enjoy. Over the years, the casino added new games, attracting ever more players, becoming highly successful!

During the planning, the Gardena city council voiced objections to its name,  “Hustler,” because of negative connotations often attributed to the word. But Flynt was able to resolve the issue and the casino has been in business ever since, faithfully contributing substantial tax dollars to the city’s treasury.

History in the making

Flynt first made poker history when he opened Hustler 16 years ago. Now, he is again with his purchase of Normandie Casino, also in Gardena. And there has been controversy here, too.

The Normandie is the last of the original six card rooms built in Gardena starting in 1936 – 80 years ago – making the city the Poker Capital of the World. Initially, only draw poker was permitted. That was long before the many other casinos were built in Southern California.

The Normandie had been owned by the Miller family since 1947 – almost 70 years ago – when Russ Miller purchased the Western Club and reopened it on Rosecrans Ave. as the Normandie.

Over the years, there were several attempts to close down the six poker clubs in Gardena, although, a large majority of the residents approved of them. In each case, the clubs won the day. Then in 1980, the city of Bell became the first of several small cities near Los Angeles to follow Gardena’s lead and legalize poker, ending Gardena’s monopoly, and impacting the clubs’ revenues.

What brought about the sale of the Normandie – the end of an era, and a major historical event in the poker world? As reported in the Daily Breeze, a leading newspaper in the South Bay area, in January, the four members of the Miller family who owned the Normandie in a joint partnership, had pleaded guilty to federal charges that the club helped high-rollers “launder” $1.38 million. In April, the California Gambling Control Commission revoked the owners’ licenses, allowing them a four-month reprieve to sell the property.

A deal was planned whereby Flynt would purchase the property and continue to operate the casino, re-named Larry Flynt’s Lucky Lady Casino. Then came controversy. First, there was an issue regarding the signage in front of the casino, including a sexily clad lady sitting atop the casino name. That has been resolved.

Then just as the Gardena city council was to give final approval, it threw in a last-minute change: Flynt’s two casinos were to guarantee a minimum monthly payment of $800,000 to the city. Flynt objected that this would not make economic sense. Should the economy become depressed, such a requirement would seriously hamper the casinos and could cause them to close down.

Flynt threatened to walk away from his purchase of the Normandie if the city didn’t scrap this new requirement on gaming taxes. Subsequently, the council held a special meeting July 20, during which it withdrew its demands, allowing the traditional 12% gaming revenue tax.

So, the new Lucky Lady Casino is now in operation and Flynt plans to invest heavily to upgrade the casino and land area. Poker celebrity and former casino executive Robert Turner, (a GamingToday columnist) has speculated the huge land area (approximately 17 acres) would allow a larger casino to be built, along with a hotel and convention center. That would compete with the new Hollywood Park Casino, located in nearby Inglewood, and other casinos in the Los Angeles area as they are expanding.

Flynt said, “We’re excited to have the Larry Flynt’s Lucky Lady Casino open for business with renovations underway. Our goal is to create a beautiful gaming property and reintroduce the City of Gardena as the Poker Capital of the World.”

About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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