Cracking down on for-profit bingo

August 25, 1992

Somebody, somewhere, must be looking out for Stephen B. Paskind, owner of Anne Arundel County's largest commercial bingo parlor, convicted gambling felon, alleged friend of mobsters and an "unindicted co-conspirator" in federal money laundering and arson indictments. The courts and the county let him keep raking in the profits from the gambling parlor he runs in Glen Burnie.

Bingo World has more lives than a cat.

Federal prosecutors recently won convictions of Mr. Paskind's associates, who have admitted funneling profits from gambling, loan-sharking, robbery and other unsavory enterprises through Bingo World. Nonetheless, a circuit court judge has ruled that the county was wrong in refusing to renew Mr. Paskind's license to run Bingo World.

The judge said a clause requiring bingo operators to have "good moral character" did not apply to Mr. Paskind, only to new license applicants. He said, in essence, that if you're moral enough to get a license in the first place, you're moral enough to keep it, no matter what you do later.

How ridiculous. While the law, which has since been revised, did not specify that the good character clause applied to renewals, it was implicit that it did. Otherwise, why have renewals at all?

What is most upsetting about the court decision is that it allows Mr. Paskind -- whose earlier convictions were mistakenly overlooked by the county, who escaped indictment for all the crimes associated with Bingo World, who has been able to run the parlor the whole time his case was under appeal -- to continue to make money off the operation. Had the county won the case, he would not have been eligible to seek either a license renewal or a transfer. Now, he can apply for both.

A renewal almost certainly would be turned down, since a new county bingo law demands that applicants for renewals meet the character test. But a license transfer -- which Mr. Paskind has been pursuing for months -- is a different story. The county has been seriously considering a plan to transfer the license to a partnership involving Mr. Paskind's former lawyers -- a dubious arrangement it should have nixed from the start.

Even if the county rejects the transfer, Mr. Paskind can appeal -- and keep the parlor doors open and the gambling profits rolling in while the appeal winds its way through the legal system.

Except for some Indian reservations, there is not another jurisdiction in the country that allows for-profit bingo, which, with its heavy cash flow, is a perfect vehicle for hiding ill-gained money. It's true that the county has tightened bingo regulations. But keeping this industry clean still takes unrelenting vigilance and considerable resources.

It's not worth it. Bingo fans can always go to fire halls. Shut the commercial parlors down, and put the Stephen Paskinds of the world out of business once and for all.

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