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Bingo on the ballot; 2 cities call special elections

By Brian Knox | Published Wednesday, February 21, 2018
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Playing for Charity

PLAYING FOR CHARITY – Two cities will vote on whether to legalize charitable bingo games in May. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Two local cities will hold special elections in May to allow charitable bingo.

Decatur called the special election Feb. 12 after the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church brought a petition for an election to allow charitable bingo.

Church representative Howard Biel said the church wanted to hold bingo games to raise money for a church ministry.

“The church has a number of ministries, and one is a prison ministry,” he said. “There is a need for supplies such as Bibles, movies and different things we do to get the offenders to learn about the Lord.”

When the church approached the Texas Bingo Commission, they found out Decatur had never had an election to allow charitable bingo.

The church was required to obtain a certain number of signatures based on 10 percent of those who voted in the last gubernatorial election. Biel said they had to get the signatures of 102 registered voters in the city. They collected 155 signatures, which were then certified by the Wise County Elections Office.

Biel said the Bingo Commission regulates how often the games can be held, and it won’t result in the church becoming a bingo hall.

“You are only allowed so many times per year. For a non-profit association, you can hold games up to six times per year,” he said.

All of the proceeds must go to charity, he added.

Bridgeport also called a special election on charitable bingo Jan. 22. City Manager Jesica McEachern said the city has received requests from non-profits wanting to host charitable bingo games in the Arcadia Theatre and the Community Center.

“It really doesn’t come up a lot for us, but it’s starting to become a question that gets asked more and more,” she said.

If the measure passes, McEachern said the city would follow state regulations on charitable bingo and not add any special city regulations.

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