The legality of slots-style electronic bingo machines offered by charitable organizations in Arizona is under significant scrutiny. State regulators are clamping down, outlining that these machines are illegal in the state and warning of potential criminal prosecution for nonprofits that continue their use.
Charitable bodies, including the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, have implemented hundreds of these electronic bingo machines. They are now facing potential legal troubles if they maintain the machines, with the primary company marketing these devices to Arizona charities potentially having criminal charges filed against them. The Arizona Department of Gaming has made its stance clear, stating that owning a Bingo gambling device continues to be a crime – as highlighted in a notice recently sent to bingo licensees.
During the month of September alone, at least 17 facilities across the state encountered visits from state regulators enforcing gaming laws and licensing bingo establishments. The issue relates to a legislative measure taken in 2017, intending to accommodate persons with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Introduced by State Sen. Sonny Borrelli, this law was meant to allow the use of electronic tablets to mark numbers during a game if a disability hindered the player’s ability to use a paper card. The law was not aimed to condone the spread of slots-style parlors across the state.
Despite initial intentions, Borrelli has confessed changing his position on the issue, criticizing the state’s actions against veteran groups that have been using the revenue from these machines. He claims that state officials are harming Arizona’s veterans to the advantage of tribal casinos. This accusation has been rebuffed by Arizona Department of Gaming Director Jackie Johnson and other regulators, arguing their actions are aimed at defending Arizonans, veterans, and seniors from uncontrolled and possibly predatory gambling machines.
Regulators stand by their interpretation of the law, and no charities have yet faced formal sanctions from the state for offering the machines. Meanwhile, the entrepreneur responsible for crafting the 2017 legislation, Greg Mullally, is facing felony charges in Maricopa County related to the bingo machines. The local gaming entrepreneur, who has boasted about drafting the law and selling millions worth of the machines to veterans’ groups, is expected to go to trial next year.