Council delays decision to make bingo permanent

Council delays decision to make bingo permanent
Signs promoting charitable bingo can be seen at various locations around the Del Mar Fairgrounds. City Council members delayed making a decision on whether to allow the game permanently until they receive financial reports. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

DEL MAR — Rather than amend an existing law that would permanently allow bingo in the city, council members opted at the Oct. 22 meeting to delay their decision until they receive financial reports. 

“Bottom line, we want to see that the charitable organizations are benefiting from the bingo games, which was the intent of the ordinance when we first passed it,” Mayor Carl Hilliard said.

Council established an ordinance in 2010 to permit the game for a two-year trial period at the Del Mar Fairgrounds and in public facility zones such as Powerhouse Community Center, the library and City Hall. Six permits have been approved.

State law allows charitable bingo as a means to provide alternative funding for nonprofit organizations.

Officials from the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which governs the Del Mar Fairgrounds, submitted a request to host bingo at the site to help make up for a decline in satellite wagering at the Surfside Race Place and benefit local nonprofit organizations.

“My understanding of the process has been that the charge for operating the bingo games has become so excessive that it’s discouraged most charitable organizations from using this as a money-raising device,” Councilman Don Mosier said.

“Before making this a permanent ordinance … I would like to see some financial reports that suggest the charitable purpose is being served,” he added.

Planning Director Kathy Garcia said she requested that information from the 22nd DAA but has not received anything yet.

“(The money) was going to go to scholarships and all these wonderful programs,” Councilman Mark Filanc said. “Right now all it appears to be doing — and I don’t know since we don’t have any numbers — (is allowing) the fairgrounds to continue to recoup costs on their fixed assets.

“We thought that we were helping our nonprofits in the community and I think that it’s appropriate that we get feedback and information on it before we allow this to continue,” Filanc said.

“Charitable bingo has been slow growing,” said Linda Zweig, media relations director for the fairgrounds. “Overall, the charities have been covering their costs and most likely making a small profit.

“It is taking time to build attendance, however, the charities are confident this will happen and are committed to bingo at the fairgrounds,” she said, adding that the game has “provided fun entertainment for the folks that have been attending.”

She said the Friends of the San Diego County Fairgrounds, the nonprofit established to operate the games, is working with city officials to provide them with the financial data needed.

According to origianal estimates from the 22nd DAA, each session would cost the host organization approximately $4,000. About 150 to 200 people were expected to attend each session, with 120 participants representing the break-even point.

About a year later each session was averaging about 80 people.

Council is expected to continue its discussion on a permanent law at the Nov. 19 meeting. The current ordinance expires around Nov. 25.



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