Northwest Florida bingo players and others around the state are safe from legislative efforts to change the game they love, thanks to State Sen. George Gainer.
The Panama City Republican made clear in the Legislature’s special session on gambling that bingo, largely a social activity involving small bets that mostly go to charities, should be off limits.
And so it is. The Senate tabled its bingo legislation, which would have elevated the game to pari-mutuel facilities with the use of electronic “card minders,” and the House never showed any interest in the matter.
“I represent northwest Florida and we don’t care how much roulette or blackjack you play, but don’t mess with bingo,” Gainer warned Monday.
On Tuesday, the Senate ratified a new gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida and adopted related legislation to implement much of it. Gainer asked on the Senate floor to be reassured that bingo is not included, tucked into or in any way changed in the gambling bills approved Tuesday.
“Is there anything in this bill that would bring it into the compact or in any way restrict or try to get some revenue off of bingo? And I’m not trying to say that to be funny. I’m just saying, if that goes back to northwest Florida, we can all change our names, pack our desks, and move to Alabama,” Gainer said.
Sen. Travis Hutson, the Republican spearheading the Senate’s gambling legislation, grinned and confirmed what Gainer and northwest Florida bingo-lovers wanted to hear.
“No it doesn’t, and when you get back to northwest Florida, you can tell them you single-handedly killed (changes to) bingo,” Hutson said. The Senate erupted in applause.
The state House ratified the gambling compact on Wednesday, but bingo wasn’t included.