Bingo prizes could double under bill heading to Gov. Wolf

Kate Klunk

Hitting bingo in Pennsylvania could mean bigger bucks if Gov. Tom Wolf signs off on an update to a decades-old law governing the game.

The bill introduced by state Rep. Kate Klunk, R-Hanover, received unanimous approval in the Senate Wednesday, Dec. 13, and is on its way to Wolf's desk.

The legislation would increase the current maximum single day payout from $4,000 to $8,000, the jackpot limit from $2,000 to $4,000 and the single-game prize maximum from $250 to $500. 

More: Rep. Klunk bill to increase bingo prizes

“By doubling the prize limits, organizations, most of which rely on bingo fundraisers as a means of creating cash flow, would be able to further help the communities in which they serve," Klunk stated.

The bill was introduced to the House Gaming Oversight Committee in March and passed through the full House in May. 

“I am very excited this commonsense bill to bring bingo into the 21st century has reached the governor’s desk for his signature," Klunk stated. "To put it into perspective, Pennsylvania’s Bingo Law was passed in 1981, a year before I was born. It has remained unchanged since."

The new law would also allow associations to advertise the value of their prizes through email and social media. 

“A quirk in the current law forbids community organizations from advertising the dollar value of cash prizes," Klunk stated in a press release following the Senate approval. 

Other changes to the previous law include allowing pre-draw bingo and guest callers, and removing a restriction that associations could only hold bingo up to two times a week.

Bingo callers are no longer required to be members of their associations for two years, which allows guest callers to come in and generate interest for the fundraisers.

Klunk first introduced a change to the law through House Bill 1334 in 2016. 

It was unanimously voted out of the House Gaming Oversight Committee that May but did not advance beyond the House.

More:Highlights of Pennsylvania’s casino gambling expansion bill

The bill was reintroduced in the current session as House Bill 411. 

No changes were made to the bill except an amendment from Rep. Dom Costa, D-Allegheny County, which was introduced last session and written into the new bill, according to Greg Gross, communications coordinator for Klunk.

It stated that a fire company created from a merger of two departments or more could immediately apply for a bingo license instead of waiting the required two years to become eligible. One of the fire companies involved in the merger must already hold a valid bingo license.

If signed by Wolf, the law will go into effect after 60 days — a month or two into the new year.