February 20, 2009 in Idaho

Measure saves bingo at Greyhound Park

Lottery rule would have barred nonprofit gaming there
Betsy Z. Russell Staff writer
 

BOISE – The bingo operation should be allowed to continue at the Coeur d’Alene Greyhound Park in Post Falls, state senators declared Thursday, voting to save it from being outlawed.

Sen. Joe Stegner, R-Lewiston, said bingo at the Greyhound Park has “raised $286,000 for various charitable organizations in North Idaho since 2004.” This year, a rule adopted by the state Lottery Commission threatened to outlaw the 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, had passed the House, so Thursday’s Senate vote gave it final approval. The bingo can continue.

The state lottery proposed rule changes for charitable bingo after 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 companies from masquerading as charitable operations, the rule prevented employees of a for-profit company from participating in the operations of charitable bingo.

The companies 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 foundation, the Greene Idaho Foundation. It falls under Idaho’s charitable bingo law, which requires 65 percent of proceeds 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 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,” Westerberg told the Senate State Affairs Committee.

Jeff Anderson, director of the Idaho 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 afterward, “I just wanted to leave it where it was – I don’t like these charitable bingo games.”


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