Bingo: who hit the jackpot? | Arkansas Blog

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Bingo: who hit the jackpot?

Posted By on Sat, Jun 21, 2008 at 6:33 AM

The state reported to the legislature yesterday on early returns on the legalization of charity bingo. The tax is coming in ahead of expectations.

But do not be misled by legislators like Rep. Rick Green, who complained that the tax is too high. The tax take was about 6 percent on $10 million in betting. That's about equivalent to the state sales tax. Seems about right to me.

But the takeout by bingo operators for their costs was more than double that, about 13 percent, better than the takeout on wagering at Oaklawn and Southland, which openly operate for profit. What a charity these bingo halls are. They pay back less to players, about 70 percent, than the racinos do, more than 90 percent.

Green suggests charities would get more money if the tax was cut. I'd suggest it would be wiser, first, to analyze those operating costs to be sure these supposed charities aren't paying people to run these games in contravention of the law. (And that 13 percent take doesn't include another 5.5 percent in reserve cash not apportioned to cost or charity. I'm betting it's more likely headed to operators' pockets in some fashion than to charity.)

And whatever the legislature does, it shouldn't follow Green's idiotic suggestion to end state auditing of the operations and just trust the nonprofit groups to operate honestly. These would be the same groups, in many cases, that flouted the law for years. I wouldn't trust recidivist law violators to give an honest accounting.


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