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Bingo the Center of Gambling Debate

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CARY — Liquor by the drink was a long time in coming in many North Carolina towns, and a lot of North Carolinians frown on gambling. The state allows two loopholes, Native American casino gambling and bingo. That could soon change.

It's a spirited debate on a heated issue. Lawmakers and bingo operators agree that charity bingo and commercial beach bingo are the same thing, gambling. What they don't agree on is the state's effort to treat them differently.

Oscar Carter of Cary Beach Bingo believes charity bingo and beach bingo should be made one industry, while State Senator David Weinstein explains that gambling is illegal except for charitable purposes.

One of the issues being examined is the fact that charitable bingo organizations are being run out of business by commercial organizations.

Cary Beach Bingo can operate seven days a week and give prizes of $10 per game. Charity bingo must buy licenses for $100, report profits and give up to $2500 in prizes one night a week.

Betty Pitts says the American Legion Bingo has been put out of business since a beach bingo opened up just a mile away.

Despite the dispute, bingo remains a popular past time among senior citizens. Evelyn Funderburk likes bingo. She finds it fun, relaxing and enjoyable. That concerns Weinstein. He can't see a sheriff arresting a grandmother for playing bingo.

That's a matter that lawmakers will have to consider as they study the law on games of chance.

The legislative committee is sending the bingo issue to a sub-committee before making recommendations for the next session of the General Assembly.