Slots type devices in Bingo Halls

A proposal in Texas to use electronic slots type devices in Bingo Halls such as “video confirmation” which will show whether pull-tag tickets, which are similar to lottery scratch-off tickets, are winners is drawing fire from opponents who say it will expand gambling.

Supporters say this proposal could draw more people to bingo halls, generating more money for Texas charities. Opponents say the machines will look and act much like slot machines, essentially bringing a form of casino-style gambling to Texas.

“This changes the gaming landscape in the state and allows the entrance of Indian gaming like we’ve never seen before,” said Rob Kohler, a consultant with the Dallas-based Christian Life Commission of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, which opposes increased gambling in Texas.

“If you’re going to put slot machines in this state at bingo halls, without a doubt it’s something that should go to the Legislature instead of the Lottery Commission,” he said. “Thieves shouldn’t come in through the back doors or the side doors on public policy.”

Lottery officials say they don’t consider video confirmation an expansion of legalized gambling.

“Video confirmation is the graphic and dynamic representation of the outcome of a pull-tab ticket, but video confirmation has no role in determining the ticket’s outcome,” commission spokeswoman Kelly Cripe said in a written statement.

Cripe said proposed rules would prevent the video machines — which some say could range in size from a laptop to a slot machine — from simulating “rolling or spinning wheels, dice or the play of casino-style games.”

Supporters say the changes could “provide licensed bingo charities the opportunity to utilize new game technology to attract bingo customers and increase sales, thus increasing revenue to various charitable purposes and the state,” she said.

In 2011, bingo sales in Texas reached an all-time high, topping $700 million, and more than $533 million was paid out to players, according to the most recent annual report from the Charitable Bingo Operations Division of the Lottery Commission.

Interest in pull-tab tickets continues to be steady, and sales have increased every year since 2002.

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