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Senators: Keep bingo at greyhound park

It took a bit of explaining, but the Senate State Affairs Committee signed on this morning to a House-passed resolution rejecting a rule from the state Lottery Commission that operators of the Coeur d'Alene Greyhound Park say would force them to shut down their three-day-a-week charitable bingo. "If the rule is not rejected ... the $35,000 to $40,000 a year that's contributed by the foundation derived from charitable bingo to local charities would not continue," Russ Westerberg, lobbyist for the Greene Group and Coeur d'Alene Racing Ltd., told the Senate State Affairs Committee.

The firms, which operate the former dog-racing park in Post Falls as a simulcast betting operation and event center, have been running charitable bingo there three days a week since 2003 through a separate charitable foundation, the Greene Idaho Foundation. The state lottery proposed rule changes for charitable bingo in the wake of an Idaho Supreme Court ruling in the "Big Bucks Bingo" case in Garden City, where a for-profit group was trying to operate under the charitable bingo law. But the way the rule was written, Westerberg said it would've cut off the Post Falls operation, where the for-profit Coeur d'Alene Racing loans the space, help from employees and sometimes subsidies to the charitable bingo operation.

Sen. Joe Stegner, R-Lewiston, said the rule "says that employees of for-profit entities can't operate charitable bingo. Yet that's exactly what's happening in North Idaho. ... We're about to preclude that." Even Lottery Director Jeff Anderson said the rule went too far; the committee voted unanimously to reject it. The resolution now moves to the full Senate for a final vote.

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Eye On Boise

News, happenings and more from the Idaho Legislature and the state capital.