Texas considers allowing devices similar to slot machines at bingo halls


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 Sunday.

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.

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