Monday, July 7, 2008

California squares off for bingo fight

A federal judge last week permitted California charities and nonprofits to operate electronic bingo machines while litigation occurs to nail down their legal status. The nonprofits and charities say the electronic bingo machines are needed to gain the audience and income lost when Indian casinos opened in the 1990s.

Although Indian gaming has grown rapidly into an $8 billion industry in California, the potential for electronic bingo may be even greater for two reasons – an almost unlimited number of charities and nonprofits could operate downtown bingo halls.

“It's an extremely dangerous development, because if it's not stopped in its tracks soon, it's going to lead to slot machines in urban areas,” said Howard Dickstein, an attorney who represents several big gaming tribes including Pala of San Diego County.

Any nonprofit or charity could seek to establish a bingo operation, he said.

“There could be hundreds, if not thousands, of them in urban areas across the state.”

In contrast, Indian gaming is restricted for the most part to the remote reservations of California's 108 federally recognized tribes.

The judge granted a preliminary injunction, which was based on the fact that the law has not been interpreted yet. He also questioned the motives of the attorney general. “This is all about a political process that is pushing the attorney general to enforce its interpretation of the law,” according to U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez.

The full text of the article may be read here.

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