Another Region 8 Sheriff Says No to BINGO

August 12, 2004 -- Posted 3:45 p.m. CDT

Ash Flat, -- After receiving numerous complaints, Sharp County Sheriff Dale Weaver is cracking down on bingo halls in that county.

Similar action was taken recently in Randolph County, and in Little Rock, the Catholic Diocese, put an end to all of its bingo activity across the state.

A loosely organized group of people from all over Region 8 are taking a big risk to get bingo on the ballot. This group is pushing all law enforcement officials in the state to close down bingo operations. They believe adding fuel to the issue, will ignite people to put it on the ballot and make it legal.

Sharp County Sheriff Dale Weaver has been in communication with them.

"The sheriffs like myself that have been confronted with this, we don't have much option," said Weaver.

After careful review of the law, Sheriff Weaver has concluded there is no law authorizing charitable bingo in the state, and therefore he must shut down all operations. In addition, the Attorney General's office has weighed in, saying bingo constitutes a lottery and is illegal.

The sheriff says he sent out letters to places in the county that he believes are conducting bingo. At the Thunderbird Center in Cherokee Village, they've already cancelled bingo until further notice.

"I don't consider what's happening in Sharp County any kind of big gambling operation. I think they are just good people that are just having a little fun," said Weaver.

Weaver admits there are other pressing matters to pursue in the county, but as sheriff, he realizes failure to shut down bingo operations, could at worst, hand him a misdemeanor charge, or the loss of a job.

In light of this bingo controversy, Sheriff Weaver has decided to cancel his department's annual raffle fundraiser. Meanwhile in Randolph County, Sheriff Brent Earley is holding back on raffle issues, until Prosecutor Henry Boyce decides if raffles constitute gambling.