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Missouri will gain by removing bingo restrictions

The Bingo Emporium has a full kitchen serving cheeseburgers, funnel cake fries and country-style food while you’re filling in those bingo cards. (Photo: Submitted photo)

Amendment 4 on the November ballot is non-political and relates the rules, some of which are written into the Constitution amendment making bingo legal, that are placed on organizations conducting bingo games. Bingo licensing and oversight is by the Missouri gaming commission which enforces the many rules. If passed, this Amendment will have enormous benefits for the service organizations related to bingo. In Springfield, bingo games are conducted by several different organizations, including Knights of Columbus, SERTOMA, Eagles, VFW, American Legion, Hillcrest HS band boosters, Little Guys baseball and St. Agnes parish. Attendance at these weekly bingo games ranges from 50-500 players and is staffed entirely by volunteers from the sponsoring organization.

If successful, the amendment will remove advertising restrictions on bingo (which have already been declared unconstitutional and are not enforced by the Gaming Commission) and reduce the length of time an individual must be a member of a nonprofit organization before being allowed to participate in that organization’s bingo activities.

Currently, the law permits an organization to conduct bingo only upon payment and issuance of a license fee, and only if they have been in existence for at least five years and have 20 bona fide members. Then, for a member of that licensed organization to manage, conduct or operate bingo, they must have been a member of the organization for a minimum of two years. This stipulation means that licensed organizations are struggling to find suitable volunteers to run their bingo, and organizations are being forced to close down, to the detriment of the local community.

In 2006, there were approximately 471 bingos in the state; today, that number is down to 224; 85 percent of them indicated it was a lack of workers that was the major issue causing them to discontinue bingo. This is because of the two year rule.

If the ballot is successful, the amendment to the Constitution will reduce the stipulation to only six months, opening the doors to a wider range of candidates.

Any money received by service organizations offering bingo, over and above the actual cost of conducting the game, is used for charitable, religious or philanthropic purposes. Organizations donate to scholarship programs, improvement grants, youth groups, hospitals and health centers, facilities for veterans and senior citizens, homeless and abuse victims shelters.

The latest data on file for 2016 shows that statewide bingo contributions to their local communities totaled $807,523.31, and state taxes paid by bingo alone totaled $1,712,130.67.

The ballot takes place on November 6, 2018.

If passed, this Amendment will have enormous benefits for the service organizations related to bingo.

Ballot issue would give Missouri bingo organizations a boost

SCOTT CITY, MO (KFVS) – There are eight statewide ballot issues being voted on in Missouri this November, and one of the lesser known items is aiming to give local bingo games a boost.

If Amendment 4 passes it would relax some of Missouri’s bingo laws making it easier for organizations that host bingo to advertise game nights and staff the events.

The official ballot language says a ‘yes’ vote would amend Missouri’s constitution to “remove language limiting bingo game advertising that a court ruled unenforceable; and allow a member of a licensed organization conducting bingo games to participate in the management of bingo games after being a member of the organization for six months instead of the current two years.”

A vote of ‘no’ would keep the current bingo laws in place.

Joe Wayne Spalding is the Bingo Chairman at the Knights of Columbus in Kelso Missouri.

He says voting yes on the bingo Amendment does not cost taxpayers anything and could help bring back bingo games in places they’ve closed.

“A lot of organizations that have had bingo a lot of their members have grown old and they have not been able to get their newer members involved because of the (two year) waiting list and they’ve had to shut their bingos,” Spalding said. “Where if Amendment 4 passes, we can have more younger workers. It leads to bigger crowds, more money and more fun for everybody.”

Right now Spalding says they can only advertise a bingo game on their property, and the new law would open up opportunities to place ads elsewhere.

“With more advertising we can have more players, which makes for a better game and more money to dispense,” he said. “Sometimes our crowds are small and we have to cut the jackpot a little bit so we don’t lose money. If we have a bigger crowd we can pay out the full amounts.”

Missouri first legalized bingo as a form of gambling in 1980. Since then voters have rejected two similar proposals to ease rules for local bingo organizations in 1990 and 2000.

One of the lesser known ballot issues would give local bingo games in Missouri a boost. If Amendment 4 passes it would relax some of Missouri’s bingo laws making it easier for organizations that host bingo to advertise game nights and staff the events.