California governor urged to reject online bingo bill

A bill pushed through the California legislature is set to allow larger Californian charities to offer bingo games throughout the state online. The bill would present opportunities for tribal gaming to move online.

Backed by Senator Gil Cedillo, SB 1369 passed through Senate and is now awaiting submission to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger amidst protests from hundreds of local charities who face devastation.

The bill outlaws the electronic charity bingo machines that hundreds of small charities throughout the state rely on for funding. In its place, Remote Caller Bingo enables simultaneous bingo games at multiple locations throughout the state online. While organizers of Remote Caller Bingo will be able to offer larger jackpots, the technology will be unavailable to small charities.

According to the California Charity Bingo Association, the introduction of Remote Caller Bingo through the internet also triggers a clause in the Indian tribal gaming compact. The clause states that any casinos operating under the compact have the right to use the internet for gambling if that technology is opened up to anyone else in California.

The Association says that if charities can offer Remote Caller Bingo online, then the door is open for gaming tribes to do the same. As bingo is a game authorized by the lottery, tribes will be able to offer lottery games online, which may yet open the door to offering other casino games such as poker, blackjack and slots.

The California Charity Bingo Association claims that these changes would in turn severely weaken the viability of the California Lottery, operated by Gtech, as a potential revenue source. The state lottery has already projected lower revenues for financial year 2009, which is projected to result in USD 94 million less in revenues for Californian schools.

The Association states that additional competition is certain to further reduce the lottery’s revenue at a time when the state is running a dramatic and continuous budget deficit and has no ability to replace these lost funds.

Ravi Mehta of the California Charity Bingo Association said: „The extreme concern of legislative supporters of SB 1369 was eliminating the perceived threat of these charity operations to established gaming operations. This concern was so extreme that legislators didn’t take the time to consider long-term consequences and rushed this bill through the Assembly and Senate in late August.“

“We are now urging the governor to take a closer look at SB 1369 and realize that in their haste, legislative sponsors left loopholes that could have disastrous and far-reaching consequences not just for small charities, but for all Californians for a long time,” he said.