CA Cracks Down on Unauthorized Bingo Slots

Bowing to pressure from the deep-pocketed and politically-influential Indian tribes that are some of their biggest financial backers, California lawmakers voted last week on a controversial bill that will disallow anyone but authorized Indian tribe members from operating slot machine Bingo games. Last Friday, a twenty-four to nine vote in the Senate officially barred charity organizations like churches, mobile park associations and high school booster clubs (or anyone else) from utilizing the Bingo slot games that have skyrocketed in popularity in recent years. Charity associations are still authorized to host Bingo games as per current state law – just not the electronic, slot-machine-like permutations of the perennial pastime that have popped up in the last decade.

It all boils down to economics. State governments may not tax the gambling income of Indian tribes unless they offer them something “substantial” in return. In California, that “something” has always been the exclusive right to operate gambling devices, like slot machines. The coalition of Indian tribes in the state has been grousing about the electronic charity Bingo games, complaining that they cut into the Indians’ rightful income. The government could not afford to lose the tens of millions of dollars of income that they make from the Indians’ gambling efforts, not were they interested in making the politically-powerful group angry.

As a compromise, the charities deprived of the slot machine-like video Bingo games would be allowed to pay out much more generous cash prizes – amounts deemed “life-altering,” of six figures or more. It is estimated that charity Bingo slot games in the Sacramento area alone churn out more than forty-four million dollars of revenue annually, some ten percent of which is donated to the sick, elderly, and students.

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