DEL MAR — Although it has yet to fulfill a goal to specifically benefit Del Mar charities, bingo will continue after council members amended an ordinance at the Nov. 19 meeting to permanently allow the game at certain locations in the city.
“When we adopted this ordinance it was intended to benefit nonprofit charities, including those in Del Mar,” Councilman Don Mosier said. “I have yet to see evidence that any nonprofit in Del Mar has benefited from bingo. “
State law allows charitable bingo to provide alternative funding for nonprofit organizations.
Del Mar established a law in 2010 to permit bingo 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.
At the Oct. 22 meeting, the consent calendar included an item to make the game permanent but Mosier said he wanted to see financial reports before doing so.
According to a staff report presented at the November meeting, six permits have been approved but only three nonprofits have been operating games. Two reported an average attendance of about 70 people per session and revenue of $7,000 and $25,000.
The Del Sol Lions Club, the only nonprofit that would directly benefit Del Mar, hasn’t participated for “internal, organization reasons,” according to a letter submitted in response to a city request for financial information.
“We expected bingo to be significantly more popular than it has been,” said Becky Bartling, deputy general manager of the fairgrounds, which approached the city two years ago to host the games.
“We were hoping it would be a windfall for all kinds of charities,” she said. “Essentially we are sort of holding our own. It’s been kind of up and down.”
She said many nonprofit groups seem to be taking a “wait and see attitude” to determine if the games will be successful because they rely on a heavy commitment from volunteers.
Mosier acknowledged there is potential for future success.
“It just seems sort of almost premature to make this a permanent ordinance,” he said. “Two years hasn’t been adequate to prove that this is going to be a marked success.
“I sort of have mixed feelings,” Mosier added. “I don’t want to take away the opportunity and yet we’re getting results that aren’t very promising.”
Councilman Mark Filanc agreed with his colleague but said there isn’t a downside to allowing bingo permanently as there have been no negative impacts on the community.
“I have yet to hear any traffic issues, noise issues … fights, or law enforcement or slapping the bingo card on people’s heads,” Filanc said. “If it fails because of a lack of interest in the long run, I guess nothing ventured, nothing gained. So I don’t see any reason not to make this permanent.”
Filanc said if participation doesn’t increase the city could rescind the ordinance in the future. Council voted 4-0, with Lee Haydu absent, to make the game permanent.
“Let it die a natural death,” Mosier said after the vote.