Arundel bill to consider bingo's fate loses favor

Support to limit number of parlors remains

February 07, 2000|By Scott Calvert | Scott Calvert,SUN STAFF

Commercial bingo in Anne Arundel County might not be endangered after all.

The County Council is backing away from its plan to ask the county's Amusement License Commission to study whether the businesses should be allowed to continue operating.

Support remains strong on the council for limiting to four the number of bingo parlors by forbidding new commercial licenses. If any of the four lost its license, a new operator would not be allowed to take its place.

But several council members -- including many of the bill's five sponsors -- said last week that they think requesting the commission to weigh the industry's fate would be going too far.

"How do you go in 50 years later and say, `I don't like bingo. You're out of business'?" said Council Chairman Daniel E. Klosterman Jr., one of the sponsors.

Another sponsor, Councilman John J. Klocko III, said he would welcome the demise of commercial bingo -- as opposed to the games that benefit charities, played at churches and firehouses across the county -- but not if it means having government "interfere with free trade and commerce."

The bill, scheduled for a public hearing at tonight's council meeting, seemed assured of passage when it was introduced last month, with five of six council members as sponsors. But Klosterman said he signed off on the bill without knowing all the details. Klocko said there was not enough "in-depth analysis" because of Councilman Cliff Roop's sudden death Jan. 3.

Councilwoman Pamela G. Beidle, who said she shares Klocko's and Klosterman's concerns, said the council might have moved too quickly in hopes of keeping bingo halls from opening.

Klosterman met Tuesday with Edward O. Wayson Jr., whose family runs Wayson's Bingo in South County. Klosterman said that by then, he had drafted an amendment deleting the Amusement License Commission section.

Wayson, an Annapolis attorney, still finds the bill unacceptable because it would make it possible for a bingo hall to lose its license because of "adverse impact" on the neighborhood in the areas of traffic, noise or "public safety."

Beidle said Wayson might have a good point.

"Anybody could say a bingo hall has impact on the community," she said. "How do you judge impact?"

County ordinance allows issuing as many as six commercial bingo licenses. Estimates have put the county's take in amusement taxes at more than $500,000 a year.

The impetus for the proposed changes was a request by a company to open the county's fifth bingo hall, on the Broadneck Peninsula. The county's Department of Planning and Code Enforcement rejected the application last month after residents expressed opposition to the proposal. No appeal has been filed with the Board of Appeals.

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