COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri’s multimillion-dollar bingo game industry has been in steady decline but could find relief under a ballot proposal that aims to alleviate a shortage of bingo workers.
The Amendment 4 proposal on the Nov. 6 ballot would remove language from the Missouri Constitution that restricts bingo advertising and changes prerequisites for bingo volunteers, the Columbia Missourian reported.
Supporters hope that the measure will revive the state’s bingo halls, which are dwindling in number.
There are 227 regular bingo license holders in 2018, down from 435 in 2006, according to the Missouri Gaming Commission.
Missouri law requires that bingo only be conducted by licensed religious, charitable, fraternal, veteran and service organizations, which must use all proceeds for charitable or religious purposes.
Bingo revenue also has been dropping in recent years. The games generated about $78.5 million in 2017, down from $103.5 million in 2010, according to the commission.
“While it seems like a trivial bill, these people donate their time to raise millions of dollars for the state without raising your taxes,” said Republican Rep. Wanda Brown.
The proposal would amend a requirement under state law that restricts new bingo workers from working until they’re part of the organization that’s running games for two years. The rule makes it difficult for organizations to find workers, particularly because members are usually older in age.
“If you go to any bingo, you’ll see that probably the average worker is 65 or older, and they’re just dying off,” said Tom Murphy, president of the Association of Charitable Games of Missouri.
The association surveyed bingo halls that closed down and 85 percent cited a lack of workers as the reason that led to shuttering, Murphy said.
“We’re a stand-alone bingo organization, and we need help with Amendment 4 to get workers available quicker because of the turnover due to the age in most of these organizations,” said Larry Krodinger, bingo chairman of the Knights of Columbus in DeSoto.