Leader Blues

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

EDITORIAL >>Bingo tax Unpopular

Invoking the courage of our fighting men and honoring our veterans are sure-fire vote-getters, but we have to draw the line at using the fighting men and women as bait to protect gambling proceeds.

At a legislative committee meeting at the Capitol the other day, representatives of bingo parlors raged at lawmakers for passing a law regulating bingo and collecting a minuscule tax to cover the state’s costs. You will remember that bingo was illegal — it was a form of lottery — until bingo operators persuaded legislators to offer a constitutional amendment to legalize “charitable” bingo.

Voters adopted the amendment in 2006 and the legislature, answering the amendment’s call for state regulation of the gambling to be sure that it was charitable and not profitable, enacted a law to do that. It imposed the little tax, one penny per bingo card.

Some bingo is run by veterans groups, and they were at the Capitol to plead for the removal of the tax when the legislature convenes in January. The tax is onerous and unpatriotic, they said, because some of the proceeds are nominally to be used to help veterans.

Listen to this overheated bloviation by Gene McVay of Fort Smith, who fancied himself a 21st Century Thomas Paine:
“The once proud American fighting men from America’s finest generation who were not defeated at Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima or Normandy, in the twilight of their lives they stand defeated by legislation.”

State Senator David Bisbee, R-Springdale, noted that the bingo operators wanted to be legalized and to be regulated.

“I have found,” he observed, “that it’s almost always more profitable to be illegal than legal.”

If they wanted to retain the maximum take from the betting, they should have just expected the law to continue to wink at the violations, as most law-enforcement agencies had been doing for years.

The little tax is nothing more than a nuisance for the parlors, but it does cover the costs of enforcing the law. The taxpayers should not have to pick up the costs of regulating the pleasures of bingo players. But watch the legislature. It will remove the tax.