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Editorial: The benefits to charitable organizations justify the effort to update regulations

Bingo is on the ropes and some contend Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo helped put it there with his emphasis on state-sanctioned gambling, which offers bigger payouts and exciting play. While it’s true that gamblers today have plenty of ways to lose their money, bingo’s decline began long before Cuomo took office.

Heading to the church, fire hall or veterans post for bingo is not the event it once was, especially so for millennials who grew up attached to handheld devices connecting them to global networks. There were about 550 bingo offerings in Western New York 30 years ago. That’s down to about 150.

The image associated with bingo has been of gray-haired ladies and gentlemen spending the evening socializing while fussing over the numbers on their bingo cards. The eventual cry of “bingo!” would get everyone’s attention, then the losers would invest their hope in the next game.

As News Albany Bureau Chief Tom Precious recently reported, Cuomo has proposed changes to the state’s charitable gambling laws. The aim is to revive revenues supporting local activities such as youth sports leagues, scholarship funds or veterans programs.

The proposals would:

• Permit larger prizes.

• Allow charities to sell raffle tickets and games of chance using checks, credit and debit cards, not just cash.

• Expand ways they can advertise their gambling offerings.

• Remove restrictions on hours when gambling can be permitted.

• Ease certain criminal background offenses for workers at charitable gambling operations.

• Allow charities to offer gambling away from church halls, posts and lodges.

• Reduce paperwork reporting requirements.

• Permit alcoholic beverages to be among the prizes.

Even with those changes, bingo will be at a disadvantage to casinos, with their slot machines and table games, and lottery games with their enormous jackpots.

But bingo does have a certain allure. It’s an outing that brings people together in a way that solitary, industrial gambling does not. Beyond that, bingo games have been the lifeblood of some charitable organizations that depend upon the money to continue funding community activities.

The governor is making a good-faith effort to revive the time-honored game of chance. If he can at least stem the decline, scores of charitable organizations in the area stand to benefit.

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