Arizona Veterans and State Agencies Clash Over Bingo Machines
In Phoenix, tensions rise as Arizona veterans’ groups and state agencies find themselves at odds over electronic bingo cards and alleged illegal bingo machines.
The Bingo Technological Aids Debate
Local American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars members, along with Republican Senate Majority Leader Sonny Borrelli, claim that the departments of Revenue, Gaming, and Liquor have been overly aggressive in their crackdown on organizations using bingo technological aids (BTAs). These electronic bingo cards, designed to assist players with disabilities, have been legally in use since 2017. State agencies argue that they are not targeting BTAs but are concerned about the use of bingo gambling machines, which resemble slot machines and can be operated without other players.
Legal Complexities and Allegations
While bingo is legal in Arizona, it must be overseen by licensed game conductors who follow specific Department of Revenue rules. Possessing a bingo gambling machine is illegal and can result in a class two misdemeanor. Borrelli expressed frustration, alleging that a letter sent by the departments on Sept. 1 was threatening organizations hosting bingo with criminal prosecution and intimidation by their gaming agents. State agencies responded by clarifying that no criminal prosecution threats were made, and their aim is to assist organizations in complying with the law. They also warned that venues with liquor licenses could face revocation if they knowingly allow illegal bingo machines on their premises.
Veterans Express Concerns
During the news conference, veterans voiced concerns about the conduct of inspections by state agents. They argued that the agents should focus on helping local posts running bingo games correct infractions rather than being overly aggressive. Jim Zawacki, a veteran and Arizona VFW member, emphasized the vital role bingo revenue plays in supporting local posts, assisting members, and contributing to the community. Other veterans at the conference highlighted how bingo game revenue funds initiatives like school supplies for children, food donations to local food banks, and support for organizations like MANA House, which aids homeless veterans.
Christian Slater, a spokesperson for Gov. Katie Hobbs, clarified that the state agencies aim to prevent the exploitation of veterans and older Arizonans using bingo machines, rather than preventing organizations from generating revenue for the community. Slater criticized Senator Borrelli for what he saw as prioritizing unregulated gambling over assisting non-profit organizations in compliance with the law.