Councilman Barry Minnich's proposal was approved in October and forced those interested in applying for video bingo permits to go before a public hearing.
Now, an ordinance proposed by Councilman Desmond Hilaire could put an end to video bingo in St. Charles Parish.
Hilaire's ordinance states that Louisiana’s revised statutes provide that the governing authority of each parish can decide whether or not charitable raffles, bingo or keno shall be permitted within the parish. It goes on to say that the council now desires to exercise that authority by prohibiting the conducting of electronic video bingo within the parish of St. Charles.
"If the ordinance Desmond wrote gets enough votes by the council the video bingo machines would have to be removed," Mike Henderson, director of planning and zoning said. "We've had similar ordinances pass, for example at one time we had fire cracker stands parish-wide and then when someone wrote the ordinance to ban fireworks being sold. We had to close the stands down."
Brett Sulzer, an attorney and one of the owner's of the Luling Video Bingo Palace, says this would be a disservice to the charities.
"I know if the ordinance passes, they are going to make us remove the machines,” Sulzer said. “I plan to be at the Nov. 5 meeting and show our business plan to the parish council. I think that someone is feeding the parish a lot of erroneous information about video bingo."
Hammond's two video bingo parlors, Cypress Palace Bingo and Hammond Bingo Palace, brought in more than $4.2 million in gross profits during their first complete year of operation, according to estimates based on city tax collections. Together, both halls paid $848,673 in city taxes to Hammond on revenues from Oct. 2, 2006 through Sept. 30 of this year.
Sulzer is part owner of the Hammond Video Bingo Palace.
"I don't know if we take out the machines if we'll remain open in Luling and play regular bingo," he said. "This ordinance is a disservice to the charity organizations because they would receive 45 percent of the profits."
Total revenue intake of both halls from July through September 2007 was $1.1 million in revenue and Hammond was paid $224,240 in taxes. Together, they paid $848,673 in city taxes on revenues from Oct. 2, 2006, through Sept. 30 this year. The yearly estimates are based on the city of Hammond's latest quarterly tax collections for video bingo, which is also the fourth public accounting of the parlors' business.
Sulzer says the money generated from video bingo would be good for the community.
"With all of the technology that's in place all across the country, I don't see the problem with giving the charities the option to use the video bingo machines," he said.
Tim Vial, a parish administrator for St. Charles Parish, checked with the legal department about the ordinance and the owners of the Luling Video Bingo Palace will have to comply with the ordinance.
"They can play regular bingo, but they can't have those machines," he said. "I checked with our legal department and the machines will be removed if the ordinance passes at the Nov. 5 parish council meeting."
Vial says even if a video bingo hall had been opened for 10 years, once an ordinance like that passes it would be forced to close down. Unlike commercial gambling establishments, which are regulated by the Louisiana Gaming Control Board and the Louisiana State Police, charitable games are monitored by the Office of Charitable Gaming in the Department of Revenue. Critics say that as a result, the charities face lighter oversight standards than other forms of gambling.
Mike Legendre, director of the Office of Charitable Gaming in Baton Rouge, says total revenue of video bingo so far this year is $12,330,000 in Louisiana. Out of that, $5,727,000 went to charitable organizations that participate with the video bingo halls. Overall, there are 26 video bingo halls operating in 13 different parishes, and 12 of those are partly owned by Sulzer.
Legendre says if the Luling location closes down they'll take those machines and move them somewhere else.
"We've had some parishes that voted it out, and we wouldn't license them anymore and we'd make sure the machines were turned off and removed in compliance with the parish ordinance if it passes," he said. "I was at the Luling Bingo Palace Thursday night having a meeting with some local charitable organizations and I was told by one of the owners of the machines that there will be a meeting to do away with video bingo, but (Luling Video Bingo Palace) would be grandfathered in and allowed to remain open."
According to the rules of charitable gaming for video bingo, a minimum of 45 percent of all proceeds has to go to charity. Video bingo is much like video poker in that users insert money into machines to play the games off a bingo card. However, video bingo machines are used by sponsoring charities for fundraising purposes and are regulated under laws other than those controlling video poker.
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