Jerry Kopel

KOPEL: LIKE HUMPTY DUMPTY, BINGO TEETERS ON A WALL

Control over bingo must be moved carefully

Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men; couldn’t put Humpty together again.

Think of Humpty as BINGO!

Fifty years of sitting in one location can breed weakness.

We don’t have to break the state’s bingo and raffle games to fix them. We just have to be careful moving Humpty off the wall.

House Concurrent Resolution 1003 survived review by the 2009 Legislature and will be on the 2010 ballot for statewide voters. It may appear innocuous, but, if it passes, it would end a period of parsing jurisdiction regarding gambling between Colorado’s secretary of state, an elective office, and the Colorado Department of Revenue, a department of the executive branch.

The end result of HCR 1003 would be to vest bingo licensing and enforcement solely in the Revenue Department unless (or until) the Legislature, by statute, decides otherwise.

Under the 2007 Sunset review of Bingo-Raffle, according to the Department of Regulatory Agencies report, a majority of licensees conduct only “raffles,” not bingo or pull-tab operations. The player retains one part of a two-part ticket, and, according to the regulation, “the other half of the ticket is deposited into a container from which the drawing takes place.”

In 2008, Mike Coffman, who was then running for secretary of state, recognized the need for better licensing and a change in the jurisdiction over bingo law enforcement.

During the 2008 session, House Bill 1273, sponsored by Rep. Rafael Gallegos, D-Antonio, and Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, the secretary of state and Revenue Director Roxy Huber were to consider “transferring responsible for enforcement, licensing, or both,” from the secretary of state’s office to the Department of Revenue.

When I checked with the Revenue Department in early 2009, the “unofficial word” was that no changes were planned. That word, however, may have been revised — leading to HCR 1003 by Rep. Kent Lambert, and Sen. Keith King, both Republicans from Colorado Springs.

Secretary of State Bernie Buescher will have a full plate just keeping election statutes from becoming a hot topic. The passage of HCR 1003 would relieve the additional pressure of overseeing bingo regulation, switching that responsibility fully to the Department of Revenue.

On Nov. 4, 1958, Colorado voters adopted amendments to Section 2 of Article 18 of the state Constitution by a 244,929-to-235,482 vote against establishing bingo and raffles as legitimate charity gambling operations. Horse and dog racing, Colorado’s other legal games of chance, had already been moved to Revenue.

In 1959, there was no DORA oversight over occupations, so a five-member racing commission was authorized under a statute passed in 1913 charged with licensing races and reporting directly to the governor. Eventually, racing was placed under DORA until it was moved to the Revenue Department.

Lottery’s laws and casino operations did not come into being until the 1980s and 1990s. So the issue of jurisdiction over bingo was a source of argument
and a bitter battle between representatives Isaac Moore and Arch Decker, both Democrats from Denver.

Denver police unions, wrote DORA, admit they “broke more than 20 state laws while running their bingo games ... the police groups disbanded, sold their bingo hall and surrendered their license.”

HCR 1003 emphasizes that at the time of licensing existence, it includes “a dues-paying” membership in order to qualify for a license, “and for the present shall have had dues paying membership for an entire five-year period.”

On page 9 of the DORA report are some sour statistics. From 1996 to 2005, bingo occasions dropped 41.41 percent, a depression in any language. The number of players fell by 1 million between 2001 and 2006 — about a third.

The gross total of wagers in Colorado dropped from $223 million, in 1996, to $146 million, in 2005.

Moving bingo to Revenue might produce a hike in money raised, or at least lessen the decline.

My suggestion: Keep bingo licensing and discipline together, but move it to Revenue.

Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.