Rep. Klunk bill to increase bingo prizes

Greg Gross
  • The bill would increase the jackpot prize limit from $2,000 to $4,000
  • Single game prizes would increase from $250 to $400

Hold your cards — Pennsylvania bingo halls soon could be offering an extra $2,000 if state lawmakers opt to update a nearly 20-year-old law.

Rep. Kate Klunk, R-Hanover, is the prime sponsor of House Bill 1334, which would partially rewrite the law last updated in 1988 to allow for higher bingo prize payouts and alter the way games are run.

Director of Resident Life Laura Baker calls bingo during May Blooms Bingo event at Senior Commons at Powder Mill in York Township, Wednesday, May 18, 2016. Dawn J. Sagert  photo

"The bill increases the prize limit and it uncaps the number of days an association can hold games," she said.

The bill was recently unanimously voted out of the House Gaming Oversight Committee and is awaiting a floor vote. Reps. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township; Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township; and Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township, co-sponsored the measure.

Limits: The current law limits the maximum payouts in a single day to $4,000.

Klunk's bill would up that limit to $8,000, while also increasing the limit for a jackpot from $2,000 to $4,000 and for single game prizes from $250 to $400.

Donald Dunlap, manager of the Red Lion American Legion, said the higher prize limits could entice more people to come out and play bingo, but $4,000 is a little too salty for the Legion to offer as a jackpot.

"That's probably a little high for right now," he said.

The current law also forbids associations, such as churches, fire departments and booster clubs, from advertising prizes. Some sidestep the law by not putting a dollar sign in front of numerals when referring to cash prizes.

Klunk's bill would do away with that and would allow associations to advertise bingo prizes online and in emails.

Other changes: The bill also allows nonmembers of an association to call numbers, opening up the possibility for guest callers, such as local celebrities, to take part and allows new association members to help with bingo. The current law dictates someone has to be a member for a year before they can help.

Klunk's bill was amended in committee to exempt some fire departments from a two-year existence clause in the law, which says an association has to have been around for two years before it can offer bingo.

The amendment from Rep. Dom Costa, D-Pittsburgh, would allow volunteer fire departments created out of a merger to immediately offer bingo.

Also under current law, associations are limited to holding bingo just two days a week, which Klunk said causes some to cancel their regular bingo games if they want to hold a special bingo night to benefit a charity.

The American Legion in Red Lion holds bingo once a month on Sundays, and having the option to hold more won't tempt it to do so.

"I don't think they would hold more. We're run by volunteers," Dunlap said, noting the volunteer pool has shrunk over the years.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @ggrossyd.