Calhoun Co. bingo amendment passes overwhelmingly

Updated: Nov. 4, 2020 at 3:59 PM CST
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CALHOUN COUNTY, Ala. (WBRC) - When Calhoun County voters went to the polls on Wednesday, they approved a bingo amendment by a three-to-one margin.

It wasn’t to bring bingo to the area, but to clear up the language in an earlier law that had the effect of threatening numerous bingo operations.

The Anniston Elks Lodge 189 has been holding bingo games for some 50 years, so when voters approved the bingo amendment they weren’t trying to bring in new games, they were keeping games like this one going.

An earlier law was meant to ban bingo in rural, unincorporated areas, after one opened up in the northern part of the county.

“There was a lot of traffic going back and forth to the bingo location, not ours, but essentially out in the unincorporated areas,” Elks five-year trustee Bobby Browne says. “And [nearby residents] did not like the intrusion on their peace and quiet.”

That resulted in a 2018 law banning bingo games within a thousand yards of a residence.

It was meant for unincorporated areas, but was so vaguely worded it shut down the Elks' bingo and other games, since all of them were 10 football fields away from a residence.

So voters went back to the polls Tuesday to clean up that earlier language, exempting games within city limits.

Now the Elks Club can continue to support scholarships, veterans, Toys for Tots, even a dictionary giveaway to schoolchildren.

“I had two people that drove by after they voted, said 'We voted and supported you, and our family supported you, 'cause you helped educate our children by providing financial aid and scholarship money, what we call the Legacy funding,” Browne said.

County administrator Mark Tyner says the commission gets very little money from the bingo games—$1,000 in the last seven years—and that comes from bingo permits.

Bingo fees and winnings are not taxed in Calhoun County.

Tyner says the money went back to the bingo commission.

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