Electronic Bingo Machines Under Scrutiny in California

4 June 2008

Two charity organizations and a company that make electronic bingo machines have joined forces to file a federal complaint against a new ban on the machines in California.

Last month California's Department of Justice issued letters to 15 bingo halls across the state warning that they must cease and desist use of electronic bingo machines. California gaming tribes reportedly have complained that the devices mimic slot machines, which they have exclusive rights to operate in the state.

The state Justice Department warned that the charities are prohibited from using machines that use computer technology in case of paper or cards. Although enforcement has been lax in the past, the department says it is choosing to take action now because evidence suggests the machines are spreading.

Tennessee-based Video Gaming Technologies, which manufactured most of the machines in question, has filed for a temporary restraining order allowing United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Sacramento and WIND Youth Services to continue operating the machines, at least for now. Two disabled bingo players, one who is blind and one who is partially paralyzed, are also parties to the case. Together, the plaintiffs argue that the Justice Department has misinterpreted the law and that a crackdown would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act by depriving disabled players of a fair chance to win.

"They're saying a card can only mean paper, which doesn't make sense in our day and age. They're kind of in a time warp," Ravi Mehta, head of the California Charity Bingo Association and a former lobbyist for Video Gaming Technologies, told San Jose's Mercury News.