Bingo's down, not out

Arundel: Commercial parlors won't be driven out of existence, but council places reasonable limits.

February 15, 2000

ANNE ARUNDEL county's commercial bingo industry can't be destroyed; it can only be contained.

That's what County Council members discovered when they thought -- for a moment -- about commissioning a study to determine whether they could drive for-profit bingo out of business. But they dropped the idea after fielding complaints from two factions: senior citizens who enjoy bingo and private sector representatives who detected an anti-business bent.

The council voted unanimously against the study.

The decision not to conduct the study makes some sense, because it was highly unlikely that the council could shut down these legal businesses without alarming other industries.

Expansion of bingo, though, is another matter. The county now has four bingo parlors, and a proposed ordinance would make sure that communities that don't have for-profit bingo never will.

The reaction to a proposed parlor in Broadneck shows why the council should pass this measure. Residents of that community have fought against the proposed Bay 50 parlor as if the operator wanted to open a landfill.

Councilwoman Cathleen M. Vitale, the newly chosen representative of Broadneck, said opposition to Bay 50 was "loud and clear."

Broadneck residents attended public hearings in force and wrote scores of letters to fight Bay 50.

There's a downside to the proposal, which will come up for a council vote later this month: Existing bingo licenses would increase in value to become the New York taxi medallions of the Chesapeake.

But that's a small price to pay to settle this issue permanently, or at least indefinitely. Bingo players can rest assured that their form of entertainment will stay around, and communities don't have to worry about bright "BINGO" signs invading their neighborhoods.

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