Politics & Government

The Buzz: Willie Brown taking a gamble on cardroom group

Former California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown has a new gig.

Brown recently signed a one-year contract to represent an association of card rooms, according to its executive director, Jarhett Blonien.

Blonien, a Sacramento lobbyist, is the son of the late Rodney Blonien, who lobbied on behalf of card rooms for 25 years. The younger Blonien took over his dad’s business and formed Communities for California Cardrooms earlier this year.

Blonien said he retained Brown to help the group build up its membership and to salve tensions among gambling interests.

“He’s the ultimate peace broker,” Blonien said.

He said his relationship with Brown goes back to his childhood and that the two traveled to China together earlier this year to visit gambling operations in Macau.

Last year, Brown represented a group pushing for a bill to allow Internet poker in California. It has since disbanded.

Brown will serve as a behind-the-scenes consultant, Blonien said. The former speaker is not a registered lobbyist. Consultants do not have to publicly report who pays them or how much.

– Laurel Rosenhall

BY THE NUMBERS

Two weeks after opening its doors, California’s insurance marketplace announced Tuesday that nearly 1.6 million unique visitors had come to its online portal and more than 104,000 customers called into its service center through Saturday. Covered California began enrolling customers on Oct. 1 for insurance plans that start Jan. 1. Roughly 94,500 applications were started online through Saturday. Average wait times at call centers improved significantly from 15 minutes to less than two minutes.

– Christopher Cadelago

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