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Bingo Reform Back to Square One

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North Carolina lawmakers have been trying to resolve a dispute over bingo for years.
RALEIGH — North Carolina lawmakers and have spent months talking about reforming bingo practices, but the study ended abruptly Monday morning with nothing to show for it.

Charities raise more than $30 million a year through bingo. Professional bingo operators raise millions more exploiting an exemption in the law for "beach bingo". Charities complain that the professionals are taking their business, but after months of study and talk the legislature is no closer to policing the games than when it started.

So-called charity bingo grosses more money in Cumberland County than the United Way, but little of it goes to charity. And the state's entire bingo industry, as WRAL reported three years ago, is policed by one grandmother in a corner office.

Bonnell Senter says she could use a lot of help because "beach bingo" raises millions more - almost all of it in cash - with little regulation. State law limits beach bingo's cash prizes to $10 a game.

Brenda Brewer of the Charity Bingo Association, says a great many bingo operators are breaking the law.

A legislative subcommittee has spent months drafting tighter restrictions. But this morning the full committee's chairman Rex Baker refused to even consider the new rules saying it was his bill or no bill.

Brewer says it can be very frustrating.

Representative Baker's bill raised less money for enforcement than the subcommittee bill. And charity bingo operators say it didn't level the playing field. He's free to introduce it himself. And the subcommittee can introduce its version. But the whole purpose of the study committee was to resolve these differences before lawmakers come back to town next week. They didn't do that.