February 19, 2009 in Idaho

Lawmakers: Greyhound Park bingo OK

By The Spokesman-Review
 

BOISE - Bingo should be allowed to continue at the Coeur d’Alene Greyhound Park in Post Falls, state senators declared today, voting near-unanimously for a measure to save the bingo operation from being outlawed.

Sen. Joe Stegner, R-Lewiston, said charitable bingo at the Greyhound Park has “raised $286,000 for various charitable organizations in North Idaho since 2004.” But then this year, a rule adopted by the state Lottery Commission threatened to outlaw the Post Falls bingo operation.

“Bang, this Rule 303 of the Lottery Commission would have put them out of business in that charitable activity,” Stegner told the Senate. “When this was brought to the attention of the Lottery Commission, they actually asked for this rule to be rejected.”

The measure, HCR 10, already has passed the House, so today’s Senate vote gave it final approval, and the bingo can continue.

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.

Aimed at preventing for-profit firms from masquerading as charitable bingo operations, the rule, as written, actually prevented employees of a for-profit company from participating in operations of charitable bingo.

At the Greyhound Park, the firms that operate the former dog-racing park in Post Falls as a for-profit simulcast betting operation and event center have been running charitable bingo three days a week since 2003 through a separate charitable foundation, the Greene Idaho Foundation. It falls under Idaho’s charitable bingo law, which requires 65 percent of proceeds to go to winnings for players, 20 percent to charity, and 15 percent for administration.

Russ Westerberg, lobbyist for the Greene Group and Coeur d’Alene Racing Ltd., said the 15 percent doesn’t cover the overhead. So the for-profit Coeur d’Alene Racing loans the space, utilities, help from employees and sometimes subsidies to the charitable bingo operation.

“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 told the Senate State Affairs Committee.

Jeff Anderson, director of the state Lottery, told lawmakers he agreed that the rule should be rejected. The commission will work on a new version next year.

Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, cast the only “no” vote against the measure rejecting the rule. He said afterwards, “I just wanted to leave it where it was - I don’t like these charitable bingo games.”


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