New Voter-Approved Rules Will Help Missouri's Bingo Halls Solve A Worker Shortage
Buried about halfway down Missouri’s marathon Nov. 6 ballot was a constitutional amendment changing some rules for bingo halls.
It didn’t get much media attention and there wasn’t a big campaign for or against the measure, but voters narrowly approved the changes with 52 percent of the vote. Here’s are primer on what it means for Missouri’s bingo halls come Dec. 6:
The first part of the changes removed a ban on advertising bingo games, except on the premises of a bingo hall. But the state hasn’t enforced that ban in nearly a decade, according to Barbara Whittle, the charitable games manager for the Missouri Gaming Commission.
“That was only to clean up language in the (Missouri) constitution that had been declared unconstitutional,” Whittle said.
Still Larry Adolphsen, bingo chairman at the Ararat Shrine in Kansas City, Missouri, says they’ll feel more free to advertise their Thursday night bingo games.
“This opens the door up a little bit more where you can reach out and touch a few more people,” Adolphsen said.
Running the game
The second part of the law lowers the requirements to run a bingo game.
In Missouri, only religious, charitable, fraternal, service and veteran organizations are authorized to run bingo games and proceeds must go to charity.
Under the previous rules, a person had to be a member of that organization for two years in order to work a bingo game, but that's dropping to six months.
Whittle said the two-year requirement ensured that the people running games are of “good moral character.”
Bingo game volunteers will still need to pass a background check to make sure they have no felony convictions.
“It’s very busy, lots of people, lots of money changing hands,” Whittle says.
The lower requirement is great news for Scott Medlock with the Lake Lotawana Optimist Club, which hosts bingo every Sunday on Blue Ridge Boulevard. He said it will allow them to take advantage of the enthusiasm of new members.
He said "six months is long enough that you get a good read on people and it’s not people jumping in and jumping out."
Adolphsen would rather have no time requirement at all, but said the six-month rule will also help them recruit younger members. The median age for his bingo worker is 72 years old.
“Fraternities aren’t like they used to be,” Adolphsen said.
He added that a lack of able workers has caused a decline in bingo statewide.
Missouri Gaming Commission statistics show tax revenue from bingo supplies has dropped steadily in recent years from more than $950,000 in 2014 to less than $800,000 this year.
Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter and the afternoon newscaster for KCUR 89.3. Follow her on Twitter @larodrig.