Saturday, February 05, 2005

Bingo groups argue against rules changes

By RICK ALMThe Kansas City Star

Missouri's struggling charitable bingo industry asked the Missouri Gaming Commission on Friday to refrain from adopting stricter rules regarding the game.
“Please don't tie our hands,” said Larry Loos, a Cape Girardeau Optimist Club game director and official of the bingo trade group Associated Charitable Games of Missouri.
Since riverboat casinos opened in 1994, “We've seen a steady and consistent decline in bingo games and dollars they give back to their communities,” Loos said.
At a public hearing Friday in Jefferson City, a commission staff panel heard testimony on 33 proposed rule changes — some good, said Loos, like less record-keeping.
But game operators raised objections to nearly a dozen rules, including one that would expand the list of duties that must be performed by commission-approved volunteers and another that would prohibit those volunteers from also selling tickets to fund-raising raffles and sweepstakes often staged by bingo groups.
The net effect, Loos said, is a need for more volunteers when the pool of available workers is shrinking.
“Getting workers is one of the biggest challenges we face,” Loos said.
“I understand there have been abuses” in the current system, he said. “But this punishes groups that are honest and are trying to follow the rules.”
Association lobbyist W.T. Dawson objected to a proposed rule that would make bingo operators liable for illegal slot machines or other gambling devices found on any premises used for bingo.
That change might be unconstitutional, Dawson said. At best, he said, it is unfair to operators that lease meeting halls for bingo games but do not have control of the entire building.
Industry representatives also objected to tighter language defining pull-tab games — often called “paper slots” — that peel apart and depict winning and losing combinations of symbols.
“Pull tabs are an interesting money-maker for all of us,” Loos said.
Manufacturers have devised new twists to the games that could boost sales, but Missouri rules bar the sale of such games.
Another proposed rule would tighten when and where pull-tabs could be sold during a bingo session — eliminating lodge hall bar areas that typically are near but not in the room used for bingo.
“The idea of charitable bingo is to help charities,” said Linda Bennett, a bingo official with a Columbia, Mo., VFW chapter. But she said many of the proposals would cut into revenues.
The bingo industry this year is again pushing its plan for General Assembly approval of multi-hall bingo games broadcast via satellite.
Loos said the number of licensed bingo game operators has fallen to 471 from more than 900 statewide when the first riverboat casinos opened in 1994.
Missouri's nominal bingo tax collection dropped to $2.9 million last year from $3.9 million in 1999.
During the same six-year span, total dollars distributed by sponsoring groups to local civic, youth and charitable causes has fallen from $20 million to $14.2 million last year.
To reach Rick Alm, call
(816) 234-4785 or send e-mail to ralm@kcstar.com
Post a Comment