County Council votes against plan to study commercial bingo sites

Amendment to prohibit parlors from expanding in other areas is passed

February 09, 2000|By Scott Calvert | Scott Calvert,SUN STAFF

The County Council decided Monday night not to explore whether commercial bingo, a fixture in Anne Arundel for half a century, should be allowed to continue.

By a 7-0 vote, the council deleted from a bingo parlor bill a provision that would have directed the county Amusement License Commission to study the industry's future and report to the council.

However, the council moved toward limiting the current operations -- passing an amendment, on a 4-3 vote, that would prohibit the four existing commercial bingo parlors from moving operations to another location in the county.

Council members continued to favor a ban on expansion beyond the four bingo parlors currently licensed. Supporters of the limit on bingo operations acknowledged that it would grant the current operators a de facto monopoly.

Final action was not taken on the bill, which affects only commercial bingo -- not games benefiting charities or fire companies, played at churches and firehouses countywide.

Councilman Bill D. Burlison, a Democrat from Odenton, questioned the wisdom of blocking expansion but leaving existing parlors alone. He urged colleagues to abolish commercial bingo altogether.

"I would say a little bit of a bad thing is bad, so why don't we eliminate commercial bingo in this county?" he said.

Burlison withdrew the motion after he concluded it had no chance of passing.

Council Chairman Daniel E. Klosterman Jr., a Millersville Democrat, echoed by several colleagues, said it would be inappropriate to close the existing businesses -- or to study the idea. If any of the four parlors lost its license, he noted, the proposed legislation would prevent another operator from stepping in.

Edward O. Wayson Jr., whose family operates Wayson's Bingo in South County, said the licensing system works. He pointed to the Amusement License Commission's recommendation -- upheld by the Department of Planning and Code Enforcement -- to deny a request for a new bingo hall on the Broadneck Peninsula.

"The system did work," said Ellen Weiss, a nonpracticing attorney who offered her legal skills to help fight the Broadneck proposal. "But it works at a tremendous cost on a tremendous number of people that I'm not sure is fair. I would hate to see another community have to go through what we went through to fight it."

The Broadneck proposal, by Bay 50 Inc., spurred the council to consider clamping down on bingo. Several council members said at the time they were not aware that county law allows up to six commercial bingo licenses.

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