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Charities ask for injunction

3 June 2008

SAN FRANCISCO, California -- (PRESS RELEASE) -- An emergency request for an injunction filed in federal court Monday seeks to stop the state of California from seizing electronic bingo aids that charities heavily depend on to fund services for children, people with disabilities and many other non-profit community services.

The state Department of Justice's Bureau of Gambling Control intends to shut down charity Bingo fundraisers that use the electronic aids to raise funds. The state claims that the booklets of paper bingo cards used with the electronic bingo aids do not properly fit their legal requirement for the use of "cards" in bingo games.

If carried out, the state's action would severely limit funding available to charities and could drive many non-profit organizations out of business.

The first of several 30-day cease-and-desist orders to charitable bingo facilities threatening criminal prosecution and seizure of electronic bingo aids if the electronic aids are not removed will be enforced this Friday, June 6. The injunction asking the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to intervene was filed by United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Sacramento, WIND Youth Services, Video Gaming Technologies, Inc. and two individuals with disabilities. The injunction request argues that banning the aids also conflicts with the Americans with Disabilities Act because the technology allows people with disabilities to overcome barriers they face if playing strictly on paper.

The electronic bingo aids use video technology to replicate strictly paper bingo games that depended on numbered balls, daubers, paper sheets and callers. The use of technology maintains the underlying game of bingo and the manner in which it is played, with the only difference being that the bingo card is an electronic card as opposed to a paper card. Each and every other component of the underlying game of bingo played on an electronic bingo aid is identical to the game played strictly on paper. Players must still compete against one another instead of against a machine to match winning bingo combinations. The charities hand out paper booklets with printed bingo combinations that players use for reference, which is functional and in keeping with state law.

In requesting the injunction, attorneys for the plaintiffs argue that the state's banning electronic bingo aids will amount to an unconstitutional seizure of private property and discrimination against persons with disabilities, and will eviscerate a major source of charity funding.

The case number for the injunction is CV082748EDL.

"This action will devastate the ability of many charities to provide essential services to tens of thousands of Californians in need. It's a draconian action that hurts the people least able to defend themselves against a punitive and badly misinterpreted area of state law," said Ravi Mehta, executive director of the California Charity Bingo Association (CCBA), which represents many of the charities that would be hurt by the state's action. Mehta is also a member of the legal team representing the plaintiffs.

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