Bingo folly

March 04, 1992

More than a year ago, Stephen B. Paskind, owner of Anne Arundel County's largest bingo parlor, was named an unindicted co-conspirator in an elaborate money-laundering scheme involving half a dozen reputed mobsters. Since his Bingo World was the alleged locale for this money-laundering, you would think the parlor would have been shut down. Think again. Mr. Paskind still owns and operates Bingo World pending court action. What's more, he's floating -- and the county is seriously considering -- a curious plan to sell the business to his lawyers.

This bizarre situation is another reason why for-profit bingo should be outlawed in Anne Arundel County. After renewing Mr. Paskind's license twice, county regulators found out through other sources he had pleaded guilty to five gambling felonies and was allegedly keeping company with gangsters. They yanked his permit and refused to give him a new one on the theory that he lacked "good moral character." He appealed the decision, lost and filed suit against the county. The money from Bingo World is still rolling in as he fan-dances around the legal system.

The county's options, owing to its own blunders, are limited. Mr. Paskind claims to have made $1.5 million in improvements at Bingo World, for which he likely would demand compensation if forced to close his operation. Pursuing the matter in court could be risky for the county, too. Mr. Paskind argues, not unconvincingly, that he is now being denied a license on precisely the same information that got him one before.

County officials are pursuing ways to "accommodate" Mr. Paskind. This largess apparently extends to letting him sell his gambling hall to his attorneys, who, we are expected to believe, have suddenly and propitiously acquired a yen for the bingo business. It is a preposterous proposal County Executive Robert R. Neall should never agree to.

The county continues to swipe at the for-profit bingo problem with weak regulations and half-baked schemes. The new background checks and financial disclosure regulations are easy to circumvent. The contemplated sale to Mr. Paskind's lawyers raises alarm bells.

The only effective way to prevent wrongdoing at bingo halls is to actively monitor bingo operations -- with the operators picking up all of the county's costs. If the county insists on permitting this folly to continue, it should at least have the courage and good sense to control it.

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