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Bills easing restrictions on bingo moving through legislature

  

JEFFERSON CITY — Legislators have been trying for years to ease restrictions on bingo and once again, bills are moving through the Missouri General Assembly to that effect.

The week, the House approved both a bill and a proposed constitutional amendment that would remove some of the unnecessary regulations that currently exist for bingo games in Missouri. The changes are meant to ease the burden for charitable organizations that use bingo games to raise funds. Sen. Gary Romine has introduced similar legislation in the Senate.

HB 1484 and HJR 59 — both sponsored by Rep. Wanda Brown — would both reduce the time the of membership to operate a bingo game. Because of laws passed decades ago to combat organized crime in all forms of gambling, a volunteer at a local VFW or Knights of Columbus hall must work regularly for 2 years for the organization before he or she can run the local bingo night. The legislation would reduce the time required to six months. The measures approved by the House would also remove the statutory restrictions on the advertisement of bingo.

“As ranking member of the general laws committee for the last four years, I’ve got the opportunity to the bingo bill,” Rep. Jon Carpenter said before the House vote. “We get to do it twice every year.”

Since bingo is part of the Missouri Constitution, to change the membership requirement, a statutory change and constitutional amendment are necessary. For the change to the constitution, the voters would have to give their approval.

“Historically, I have opposed the bingo bill because I am skeptical of asking the voters of Missouri to vote on a constitutional amendment,” Carpenter said. “But this year I am going to speak in favor of HJR 59 and vote yes. And am hoping with my newly acquired support that the bill is able to actually pass this year and we don’t have to continue talking about it in the future.”

This change has been tried before. In fact, voters have already rejected this twice — most recently in 2000 — a point Rep. Tracy McCreery brought up during perfection of the bills.

However, supporters are optimistic that with some distribution of information and education, voters will approve of rolling back the restrictions on bingo games.

“This is no bingo gone wild,” according to Brown, who says this will ease some burdens on charitable organization who raise some funds through bingo games.

The change was promoted as taking “pressure off of older members who are the only ones qualified to run games under current law, and would allow newer, more active members to participate in their operation.”