City moves ahead to create bingo law

DEL MAR — Del Mar is currently the only city in the county that doesn’t allow bingo, but that may soon change. At the May 3 meeting, council members directed staff to begin preparing an ordinance that would permit the game of chance usually associated with church fundraising.
The 22nd District Agricultural Association is seeking to conduct bingo games at the Del Mar Fairgrounds as a way to make up for a drastic decrease in satellite wagering attendance and revenue.
The fairgrounds is proposing to hold bingo seven days a week with 11 sessions daily. There would be 20 to 25 games per session, with each game paying out $250 in prizes. Fairgrounds officials estimate profits of $4,000 per session, or approximately $200,000 annually.
The city cannot profit directly from the games, however, it can recover all costs incurred for law enforcement and public safety services and a maximum of $50 to process a bingo permit.
Del Mar would also receive increased sales tax from any food and beverages sold at the bingo games.
Although the request came from the fairgrounds, the ordinance will allow bingo to be played at any venue in the city, such as the Powerhouse or the church, as long as requirements included in the new law are met.
State law allows bingo as a means to provide alternative funding for nonprofit groups. It is not intended to be a mechanism for generating revenue and must be operated by charitable organizations.
The 22nd DAA has established the Friends of the San Diego County Fairgrounds as its nonprofit organization to operate the games. The group formed with a five-member board of directors. None are Del Mar residents.
Proceeds would be used for the Don Diego Fund, which provides college scholarships to area high school seniors who have participated in fairgrounds events. Money will also fund capital improvements at the fairgrounds and possibly other local charities, such as the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority.
Overall, council members supported the proposal. “I don’t see any reason to say no,” Councilman Carl Hilliard said.
But they were also adamant that it be revenue neutral. “We’ve got to have a clear mechanism to define cost recovery,” Councilman Mark Filanc said.
“I don’t want this to be costing us any money, otherwise I’m going to turn against it,” Mayor Richard Earnest said.
Bingo ordinances aren’t difficult or bizarre to craft, the city attorney said, but nothing is expected to be presented to council until at least July given all the other projects city staff is working on. That means bingo games wouldn’t likely start until fall at the earliest.

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