Texas to weigh slot-like devices at bingo halls

AUSTIN (AP) — The Texas Lottery Commission is set to consider this week letting bingo halls in the state use electronic devices similar to slot machines.

The commission on Wednesday will discuss a proposal that would let bingo players use “video confirmation” to show whether pull-tag tickets, which are similar to lottery scratch-off tickets, are winners, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

Supporters say the proposal could draw more people to bingo halls, which would generate more money for Texas charities. But opponents say the machines will look and act much like slot machines, essentially bringing a form of casino-style gambling to Texas.

“This changes the gaming landscape in the state” and allows gaming like “we’ve never seen before,” said Rob Kohler, a consultant with the Dallas-based Christian Life Commission of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, which opposes increased gambling in the state.

Lottery officials say they don’t consider video confirmation an expansion of legalized gambling.

“Video confirmation is the graphic and dynamic representation of the outcome of a pull-tab ticket, but video confirmation has no role in determining the ticket’s outcome,” commission spokeswoman Kelly Cripe said in a statement.

Cripe said proposed rules would prevent the video machines from simulating “rolling or spinning wheels, dice or the play of casino-style games.”

Holly Taylor of Burleson told the newspaper she enjoys pull-tabs just as much, if not more, than bingo. And if the pull-tabs were displayed in an electronic game format, she thinks many bingo players would be happy with that as well.

“If they were on the screen, even more people would buy them,” said Taylor, 43. “I think it would be more exciting.”

According to the most recent annual report from the Charitable Bingo Operations Division of the Lottery Commission, bingo sales in Texas reached an all-time high in 2011, topping $700 million, and more than $533 million was paid out to players.

Texas lawmakers approved state-regulated bingo in 1981 to raise money for charities. The bingo report shows that more than $1 billion has been paid to Texas charities through the game.

Currently on pull-tab tickets, players pull up tabs to reveal whether the card they bought was a winner. The proposal for video confirmation was submitted this year by K&B Sales and the Veterans of Foreign Wars-Department of Texas.

Electronic gaming devices have been an issue for more than a decade in Texas, as lawmakers have proposed allowing them, but the Legislature has rejected them.

Full Statement from Lottery Commission:

Pull-tab bingo games are played with paper tickets and are not played electronically. The proposed rule amendments for the April 16 Commission meeting would not authorize electronic pull-tab bingo tickets or the play of pull-tab tickets on an electronic device. The proposed amendments would allow pull-tab bingo players, at their option, to utilize video confirmation to reveal the pull-tab ticket’s outcome. Those players not wishing to utilize video confirmation may still determine if their pull-tab ticket is a winner by simply pulling the tab on the ticket.

Under the proposed amendments, all pull-tab tickets must still be constructed using paper materials and video confirmation must not be the exclusive method by which a pull-tab ticket’s outcome can be revealed. Per the proposed amendment, all video confirmation methods must be approved by the Commission. Video confirmation for event pull-tab tickets has been authorized since July of 2007. The proposed amendments would merely expand the rule to allow video-confirmation for instant pull-tab tickets.

These proposed amendments would not authorize slot machines, and they include language to prohibit any video confirmation that simulates or displays rolling or spinning wheels, dice, or the play of casino-style games, including slot machines. The Commission recognizes that the authorization of slot machines and electronic gaming devices are policy decisions to be determined by the Legislature.

Bingo electronic card-minding devices were authorized by the Texas Legislature in the 1990’s and have been utilized by licensed charitable organizations conducting bingo since that time. The proposed rule amendments are consistent with previous opinions issued by the Attorney General and consistent with current legislation.

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