Monday, January 29, 2001

Fairfield seeks instant bingo limit

By Earnest Winston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FAIRFIELD — In an effort to ensure that people do not profit from the sale of instant bingo tickets, city officials are moving to restrict the sale of the popular game.

        “This isn't an effort to prohibit a true charitable operation,” Police Chief Mike Dickey said. “Nobody is say ing that the people who are running them are doing anything illegal right now.”

        Instead, city officials think the opportunity for illegal profiting from the instant tickets is high. Instead of benefiting charities, as state law requires, the illegal ones pad the pockets of those operating them.

        The ordinance, which received a first reading last week, could take effect in March. The ordinance would restrict the sale of instant tickets by charitable organizations to premises that have a charitable bingo game license issued by the Ohio attorney general. It would also restrict the sale of tickets to the hours of operation of the charitable bingo game itself.

        Chief Dickey said Fairfield has not had any problems with the two establishments that sell instant bingo.

        Pull-tag bingo games have become popular. People buy the tickets and then find out whether they won any money by pulling off the tabs. At last check, instant bingo was at least a $600 million industry in Ohio, said Todd Boyer, spokesman for the Ohio At torney General's Office.

        Mr. Boyer said Attorney General Betty Montgomery is concerned that there is no oversight for instant bingo.

        “A situation like that invites less than honorable individuals to become involved,” he said. “In Ohio, there are no license requirements, there are no registration requirements. And other than a few isolated municipalities, no regulation of instant bingo at all.”

        Ohio law requires only sit-down bingo halls to be licensed. Operators without that kind of site are much more difficult to monitor.

        In 1999, Hamilton city officials curtailed instant pull-tab bingo operations, restricting them to industrial zones.


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