New law helps bingo halls compete with casinos

By Tyler Profilet - bio | email

CAPE GIRARDEA, MO (KFVS) - Missouri Governor Jay Nixon signed a new law Tuesday that he says will help bingo halls stay open, even if a casino comes to town.

The new law does three things.

Bingo halls can now open earlier and close later, charities can now host two games a week instead of one, and they can use up to 10 percent of their receipts on advertising, up from 2 percent.

The bill also increases the amount of money bingo operators can spend on advertising.

Under Missouri law, bingo games can be operated only by charitable, religious, veteran, fraternal and service organizations.

Bingo organizers say with more and more bingo halls being closed because of casinos, bingo hosts are hoping this levels the playing field.

"The casino coming into town will affect bingos because of the fact it is another form of gambling," said Notre Dame High School Development Director Tony Buehrle.

Both the Notre Dame Home and School Association and Notre Dame Booster Club sponsor bingo nights at Bingo World in Cape Girardeau.

Buehrle says the nights are vital in developing new programs and keep tuition low.

"The Notre Dame bingos are doing something around one million dollars a year. At the end of the day when you're able to put that money on your bottom line to reduce your tuition to your families, it's a pretty significant dollar amount for our students and our parents," he said.

Buehrle says he doesn't see a lot of benefit in being able to have longer hours, as most bingo players are ready to leave by 9:30.

He says the biggest advantage the new law brings is being able to increase the amount of profit that can be spent on advertising.

"The money you use in advertising takes away from what you're giving away, but at the same time, you're able to utilize some of the income to help pay for advertising. If you don't have that, you don't have anybody come in," he said.

Folks with the Elks Club say they only advertise when progressive games get around $7,000.

But Buehrle and the Elks Club fear that a potential casino will put a big dent in their revenue, or put the game out all together.

"With the new rules of having longer times, higher advertising dollars to spend and those kinds of things, it may give us a chance to compete," Buehrle said.

He says Notre Dame has set aside a years worth of bingo revenue as a safety net in case a casino takes a chunk of their profit.

Missouri's expanded bingo law will take effect Aug. 28.

Bingo bill is SB940.

Online:

Legislature: http://www.moga.mo.gov

Governor: http://gov.mo.gov

Copyright 2010 KFVS. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.