Opposition to Charitable Bingo Surfaces

OCTOBER 17, 2006 - Posted at 3:44 p.m. CDT

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Conservative groups that initially viewed a ballot item to legalize bingo as benign now oppose the measure out of concern the proposed constitutional amendment could result in large gambling halls going up around the state.

Jerry Cox, who heads the Family Council Action Committee, says the group does not take issue with the intent of the measure, which would allow volunteer fire departments, church groups and other charitable organizations to have raffles and bingo games to raise money.

But Cox says he is concerned that passage of the proposal would open the door to massive bingo halls run by commercial interests or Indian tribes, which he said could use the amendment to gain a presence in the state.

Larry Page, director of the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council, said he is also concerned that the amendment could open the door to more gambling in the state.  He said one result could be high-stakes bingo games at halls open 24 hours, and he said electronic bingo games would also be a possibility.

The measure was referred to voters by the Legislature.  It will appear on the November 7 ballot.  It would allow charity groups that have been active for at least five years to hold bingo games and raffles.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)