‘Don’t mess with bingo’; senators are cold to rule changes amid gambling reforms

By: - May 17, 2021 6:35 pm

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Changes in state rules over Bingo games in Florida may have hit a dead end Monday.

The lone Senate committee charged with vetting nine pieces of gaming and gambling legislation in that chamber did not vote on the three measures related to bingo. In the House of Representatives, the Bingo measures have no counterparts, indicating lack of interest in that chamber, too.

Long the province of charity-based operations such as veterans organizations and churches, bingo rules are among the proposals being deliberated in the special session on gambling that started Monday.

The Senate measure would expand bingo games to pari-mutuel facilities (traditionally hosting live horse races or jai-alai games) and would modernize the game to allow up to 350 electronic card-minders at such a facility at any one time.

Sen. George Gainer, a northwest Florida Republican, and others said they don’t see why popular, low-dollar bingo games have been swept into a special session called to implement a 30-year, $2.5 billion gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

“I represent northwest Florida and we don’t care how much roulette or blackjack you play, but don’t mess with bingo,” Gainer said, looking fierce but prompting good-humored laughter.

Democratic senators Audrey Gibson of Duval County, Gary Farmer of Broward, and Linda Stewart of Orange County also expressed concerns about disrupting a popular social amusement that generates small pots of money for local charities.

Smiling, committee chair Sen. Kelli Stargel, a Republican from Lake and Polk counties, invited sponsor Sen. Travis Hutson, a northeast Florida Republican, to include in his closing remarks “why you’re messing with bingo.”

At that, Hutson offered to postpone further action on his bingo bills. It was not clear if senators might have another opportunity to vote on them. The full Senate convenes Tuesday at 10 a.m.

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Laura Cassels
Laura Cassels

Laura Cassels is a reporter, former statehouse bureau chief, and former city editor. She is a classical pianist, a Florida State University graduate and proud alum of the Florida Flambeau, an independent college newspaper. Contact her at [email protected]