Virginia’s Battle over Bingo Intensifies

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A seemingly-innocuous bill in the Virginia Senate is causing quite a stir among the Commonwealth’s bingo community.

According to the summary of SB 1127, introduced by State Sen. Bryce Reeves (R-17th District), the bill “Removes the requirement that an organization qualified to conduct bingo games may only play instant bingo, network bingo, pull tabs, or seal cards as part of such bingo games and at such times designated in a permit, if any, for regular bingo games.”

But one particular provision in the bill has sparked controversy.

A provision in the bill mandates that organizations hosting bingo games give at least 10 percent of their gross profits to the “religious, charitable, community or educational purposes for which the organization is specifically chartered or organized.”

Ben Tribbett, a Democrat consultant in Virginia, says that the 10 percent mandate will de-incentivize players from even playing, because it will cut into how much players can win.

Noting that local bingo games are not “big gaming,” Tribbett says the margins in those local bingo games are slim. The amount contestants can win is already limited, as are the proceeds that the hosting organizations make.

Mandating that at least 10 percent of the gross proceeds are donated to the hosting organization’s charitable cause, Tribbett says, could mean fewer players, and less money in the pocket of those charitable causes.

Opponents also contend that electronic gambling companies stand to gain from the decline of bingo.

But Reeves says that’s untrue.

He told The Virginia Star by email that “the manufacturers of the electronic games stand to loose [sic] millions of dollars when my bill passed, for the proliferation of their games by exploiting a loophole in the current law.”

“The charities are listening to the talking points from the game manufacturers,” he continued.

Reeves contends that the bill is only meant to remove “illegitimate charities” from hosting bingo games by requiring “all organizations to obtain a permit and comply with charitable gaming laws and regulations.”
He says that the bill also limits “all charitable gaming to specific geographical locations and prohibits charitable gaming in bars/restaurants,” and “[p]uts an enforcement measure in place that would ban manufacturers who have committed gaming violations or run foul [sic] of the law.”

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Pete D’Abrosca is a contributor at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Follow Pete on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Bingo” by Anne Varak. CC BY 2.0.

 

 

 

 

 

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