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Bill legalizes bingo for elderly, disabled

By JO BECKER

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 22, 2000


TALLAHASSEE -- State lawmakers want to prevent senior citizens from getting in trouble with the law for playing a little bingo where they live.

A proposal passed unanimously Tuesday by the House Regulated Services Committee would legalize all bingo games for money at nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other centers for adults and the developmentally disabled.

Several lawmakers said the law was prompted by a "hit" on a Pinellas County nursing home, in which police caught senior citizens illegally conducting a bingo game. None of the lawmakers could name the home.

"They actually arrested these 80-year-old people," said Rep. John Morroni, R-Clearwater.

Bingo already is legal at condominiums, cooperative associations, homeowners associations and mobile home parks. Net proceeds from bingo games must be donated to a charitable, tax-exempt organization, used to cover the costs of conducting the bingo game, or carried over as prize money in subsequent games.

The bill to allow bingo games at facilities for the elderly and disabled states that any net proceeds may be donated toward the activities of their choice. The bill, which has two more committee stops before it can be considered by the full House, would also prohibit non-resident guests from claiming prizes.

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