Shuttering Bingo World

April 15, 1992

Anne Arundel County's Amusement License Commission ought to be alarmed by the criminal sentences linked to Bingo World, the county's largest bingo parlor.

Dominic P. Cortina and Sam Frank Urbana, two reputed mobsters, are facing time for their part in a money-laundering scheme allegedly masterminded by Bingo World owner Stephen B. Paskind. According to court documents, Urbana arranged for Chicago gangsters to buy a 42 percent stake in the business which, as far as county officials knew, was 84 percent owned by Mr. Paskind.

From March 1986 to September 1987, they and others, banking on an expected 16 percent profit, pumped $2 million in ill-gotten gains into the business. Two years later, prosecutors say, some investers moved to protect their money by setting fire to a rival hall. And in a third development, a Glen Burnie woman has been ordered to repay more than $100,000 she embezzled while working as a bookkeeper for Bingo World.

This business stinks to high heaven. Yet Mr. Paskind, an "unindicted co-conspirator" in all this, still owns and operates Bingo World pending court action. What's more, for reasons that escape us, the county is bending over backward to accommodate him. He has suggested, and county officials are considering, a dubious plan to sell the business to his lawyers.

This outrageous proposal shouldn't be considered for a moment. The real solution to the increasingly fetid aroma wafting from Bingo World is obvious: shut it down. Troubles with for-profit bingo in Anne Arundel are recurring and deeply troubling. Yet the county continues to dance around the issue with tepid regulation and half-baked schemes. The Bingo World affair is the best evidence yet against permitting for-profit bingo.

According to court documents, Mr. Paskind was the brains behind the kind of set-up encouraged by this gambling activity. Permitting the continued operation of this hall, in light of its history and the alarm bells sounded by the contemplated sale to Mr. Paskind's lawyers, is hardly prudent. It's time the Neall administration moved aggressively to close the book on Bingo World.

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