Jerry Kopel

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 again.

Fifty years sitting in one location can in-breed weakness. Humpty is BINGO!

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 decides otherwise.

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 period.

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 one-third.

Gross amount wagers dropped from $223 million in 1996 to $146 million in 2005.

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 Revenue.

(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)

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