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New hope for Florida bingo halls, charities

30 July 2007

FLORIDA -- As reported by the Florida Sun-Sentinel: "A new form of legalized gambling — one that has raked in millions in other states — quietly arrived in South Florida bingo halls this month with no state regulatory oversight.

"It's called pull-tab or instant bingo and has been equated to paper slot machines.' It has been billed as a way to resuscitate the state's struggling bingo halls and pump more money into charitable organizations, especially veterans groups. A state law took effect July 1 allowing the pull-tabs, which are similar to scratch-off lottery tickets.

"...Critics of the new law say it lacks the teeth to ensure the proceeds go to nonprofit organizations as required. No state agency oversees distribution of the instant bingo tickets, which cost no more than a dollar. Bingo halls are required to keep records of instant bingo sales, but no regulatory agency is assigned to check them.

"...Veterans groups began pushing about five years ago to legalize instant bingo.

"The law limits pull-tab sales to bingo halls, but that hasn't stopped pull-tabs from raking in millions in other states with similar regulations.

"...There is no way to gauge how much money pull-tabs generate in Florida. The state doesn't license bingo, leaving it to local law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to monitor the games. Nor does the new law require operators to have criminal background checks.

"...Charitable organizations' bingo games draw about 20 percent of the crowd they did about 15 years ago, said Jim Hynes, president of Allied Bingo Supplies, a Pompano Beach-based bingo supplies company. For some veterans and religious groups, it's the sole source of income, he said.

"Some in the bingo industry say the game's drop in popularity corresponds with declining membership in fraternal organizations. Others say bingo has been crowded out by other gambling options such as the lottery and the Seminole tribal casinos. But most agree the game is struggling to survive as the generation who grew up with it dies..."

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