Illinois lawmakers want to crack down on bingo

Illinois lawmakers want to crack down on bingo

Free N Fun Bar Bingo gets around state law by employing a sweepstakes model instead of a traditional participant buy-in. And lawmakers are not happy.

A group of Illinois state senators wants to crack down on bingo games with cash prizes. Specifically, bar bingo, which they say is illegal.

“Somebody said we can’t do anything to these bars,” state Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan, said, according to WCIA. “Oh yes we can, we can take their liquor license away from them and put them out of business if they want to do this kind of stuff that’s illegal.”

Link is a member of the Senate Gaming Committee, which concerns itself with gambling legislation. And since these bar bingo games include cash prizes, they have popped up on the radar of Gaming Committee members. Senate Gaming Committee Minority Spokesperson Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, also expressed concerns regarding the bingo games.

“It’s something that has to be looked into both by the Attorney General’s office and the Gaming Board,” Syverson said, according to WCIA. “If it’s considered bingo, right now bingo is limited to not-for-profits in Illinois.”

Many of the bar bingo games are coming from one company in Crestwood, Illinois. That company, Free N Fun Bar Bingo, doesn’t hide the fact it’s employing a loophole to get around state law banning bingo games for businesses.

Free N Fun Bar Bingo doesn’t use a traditional, buy-in bingo model where participants pay for admittance to games. Rather, the company charges participating businesses a flat rate to promote the bingo event, and participants get free admittance to the games. This makes it akin to a sweepstakes, according to company founder Ron Larson, as reported by WCIA.

However, this clever work-around has not pleased members of the Senate Gaming Committee. One senator in particular had a stern warning for any bar that participates in bar bingo.

“If they are willing to deal with the consequences lose their liquor license, then that’s their prerogative,” Link said, according to WCIA. “I think that this warning should be out there very strongly that you’re playing with fire and you could get burned.”

If going after bars that host bingo-like games is such a great concern for Illinois lawmakers, they should reconsider their priorities.

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