BINGO IS NO LONGER a game played in fire halls and church basements. It is a big business, particularly in Anne Arundel County. With five licensed commercial bingo parlors and 75 licensed non-profits, the take from bingo games amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars a week. Like any other business, maximizing revenues is a primary goal.
Squeezing more money out of Anne Arundel bingo patrons is behind Frank Moran and Sons' recent effort to win approval for its new electronic bingo machine. The Arbutus supplier of bingo equipment failed in 1996 to gain approval for an earlier version of the machine, which so closely resembled a slot it might be confused with one. This time around, the machine's "arm" has been eliminated, along with a feature that allowed a build-up of credits. The words "Bingo" have been written on the front in gigantic letters in case anyone missed the point.
Instead of focusing on the question of whether this apparatus is a slot machine in drag, the county's Amusement Licensing Commission, an advisory body, should focus its efforts on determining the need for high-tech electronic bingo in Anne Arundel.
Historically, bingo has been a leisurely, low-stakes game of chance, even if players can get downright serious about it. The operator who pulls the colored balls out of a tumbler controls the game's pace. No participant expects to make a killing by playing a dozen cards. The game is meant to be a social experience with players trying to cover the necessary squares.
The electronic bingo machine is a high-tech refinement of the instant "bingo" cards already in use. In the instant format, bingo isn't a game played by a crowd but by an individual, pulling tabs off the card. Making this process electronic quickens the pace, meaning players will spend more money. It also means that bingo will be a wholly unsocial experience, like playing the slots.
There is no compelling reason to introduce these machines into county bingo halls.
What would be good business for Frank Moran is bad for Anne Arundel County. The commissioners should turn down this clever effort to transform bingo into something it was never intended to be -- a fast-paced game of high stakes and potentially huge losses.
Pub Date: 5/28/97