In 1530, the game “Lo Giuoco del Lotto D’Italia” was created. A little more than 200 years later, it came to United States and became known as “Beano.” It has since translated into everyone’s favorite gambling/board game bingo – a game that has both local and state regulations on when, how and why it is played.
The Palm Springs City Council recently received a letter from the Mizell Senior Center suggesting that the council review and temporarily remove or reduce such restrictions in the city’s bingo Permit Ordinance. The goal for the nonprofit Center is to expand the amount of days and/or the time during the day in which it can conduct bingo games. Currently, the Bingo Ordinance restricts the hours an organization can hold games between the hours of noon and 11 p.m. and no more than five days in any calendar month.
Dean Lockwood is the executive director of the Mizell Senior Center, which has a 12,000 square foot building that houses anywhere from 80-130 people for bingo once a week from 1-4 p.m. Lockwood said more bingo would translate into more money for other programs the Center has available such as fitness and social programs.
“We do have a fee for the game,” Lockwood said. “When we do that, it is designed also to help really supplement the programs that we don’t make money on.”
Meals On Wheels and the Nutrition Program are two such programs. The Mizell Center is looking at a $70,000 deficit this year and the Nutrition programs cost $200,000 a year to operate, Lockwood said. He estimates the center can make an extra $300-$400 per extra game of bingo. (Mizell members pay $5 per game, non-members pay $8).
“The board decided that we needed to take a little proactive action and at the time, we did a survey of current players to find if it is something they would be interested in,” Lockwood said.
The response from the players, most of whom are 70 years of age or older, was that they would love to play more bingo, Lockwood said.
As a result, Lockwood sent a letter to the city council in September with a request to change the Palm Springs’ Bingo Ordinance. At the October 7 Palm Springs City Council meeting, the non-action agenda item was sent to the city attorney to check for any conflicts with California bingo laws.
Though unsure of any specific changes, City Council Member Lee Weigel is in support of the ordinance change.
“I think the request is reasonable and I support expanding the hours,” he said.
Weigel, who played bingo “hundreds” of times as a kid, said that when the ordinance was passed many years ago, bingo was controversial in that it was considered gaming or gambling under state law.
“Certain criteria had to be met to avoid being prosecuted for gambling,” Weigel said.
As gaming laws in the state have changed, however, restrictions have been relaxed.
“It’s kind of taken a back seat, it’s not as important as it was in terms of enforcing gaming laws,” Weigel said.
The city attorney and the council will be examining the ordinance to make sure the changes do not open up the opportunity for satellite gaming.
“We don’t want to open it up so much that it just becomes a gaming source for someone,” Weigel said.
Whatever the city attorney comes up with, Weigel is OK with the Mizell Center using bingo as a means to generate revenue for other programs.
“In the spirit of helping everybody who needs help, especially in these economic times, the city council in Palm Springs is willing to look at this just for some way that we can accommodate helping them make a little more revenue,” he said.
In terms of actually playing Lo Giuoco del Lotto D’Italia or Beano or bingo; when asked what the key to winning is, Lockwood quickly refers to trickery.
“I think what it is, is to try to make sure to distract your neighbors enough so that they can’t call their own game,” he said.
There has been no date set for the Palms Springs City Council to take action on the Bingo Ordinance.
Blake Ellington can be reached at email@example.com