Bingo on the Ballot
May 17, 2009
By Jerry Kopel
Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the
king's men and all the king's horses could not put Humpty together
Fifty years sitting in one location can in-breed weakness. Humpty is
We don't have to break Humpty apart to fix it.
Just be careful moving Humpty off the wall.
House Concurrent Resolution 1003 survived review by the 2009 legislature
and will be on the 2010 ballot for statewide voters. It may appear
innocuous, but it ends a period of parsing jurisdiction regarding
gambling between the Secretary of State's Office (SOS) and the executive
branch Dept. of Revenue.
The end result of HCR 1003 will be bingo licensing and enforcement
vested in Revenue Dept. unless (or until) the legislature by statute
Under the 2007 Sunset review of Bingo-Raffle, according to the Dept. of
Regulatory Agencies report, a majority of licensees conduct only
"raffles " not bingo or pull-tab operations. The player retains one part
of two-part ticket. "The other half of the ticket is deposited into a
container from which the drawing takes place."
In 2008, then-running for secretary of state, Mike Coffman recognized
the need for better licensing and enforcement location of bingo laws.
Under 2008 session HB 1273, sponsored by Rep. Rafael Gallegos, D-Antonio
and Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, the secretary of state and Revenue
Director Roxy Huber were to consider "transferring responsible for
enforcement, licensing, or both from SOS to Revenue."
When I checked with the Revenue Dept. in early 2009, the "unofficial
word" was no changes planed. However that may have been revised leading
to HCR 1003 by Rep. Kent Lambert, R-El Paso and Sen. K. King, R-El Paso.
SOS Director Bernie Buescher will have a full plate just keeping
election statutes from becoming fevered. He gains some moving room by a
switch to Revenue for bingo licensing and discipline by constitution and
statute in 2010, assuming HCR 1003 passes.
On Nov. 4, 1958, Colorado voters adopted amendments to Section 2 of
Article 18 of the state Constitution by 244,929 in favor to 235,482 vote
against establishing bingo and raffles as legitimate charity gambling
operations. The last of other gambling, horse and dog racing, have
already been moved to Revenue.
In 1959, there was no DORA oversight over occupations, so a five member
racing commission was authorized under a statute passed in 1913 charged
with licensing races and reporting directly to the governor. Eventually,
racing was placed under DORA until it was moved to Revenue Dept.
Lottery's laws and casino operations did not come into being until the
1980s and 1990s. So the issue of jurisdiction over bingo was a source of
argument and a bitter battle between Rep. Isaac Moore and Rep. Arch
Decker, both Democrats from Denver.
Denver police unions, wrote DORA, admit they "broke more than 20 state
laws while running their bingo games....the police groups disbanded,
sold their bingo hall and surrendered their license."
HCR 1003 emphasizes that at the time of licensing existence, it includes
"a dues-paying" membership in order to qualify for license," and for the
present shall have had dues paying membership for an entire five year
On page 9 of the DORA report are some sour statistics. Between 1996 to
2005 bingo occasions dropped 41.41 percent, a depression in any
language. Players dropped one million between 2001 and 2006, about
Gross amount wagers dropped from $223 million in 1996 to $146 million in
Moving bingo to Revenue might produce a hike in money raised, or at
least stop the continuing drop in revenue.
My suggestion: Keep bingo licensing and discipline together, but move to
(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)