MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It turns out, a single complaint helped change Minnesota’s law on bingo games.
For decades, nursing homes and senior centers have only been allowed two bingo days a week. But starting July 1, they’ll be free to play all the bingo they want.
It started with a complaint from a Texas woman in 2014 to Minnesota’s Gambling Control Board. After visiting her mother-in-law’s nursing home in St. Paul, Kate Allen was upset not only that bingo days were restricted, but also that she as a guest couldn’t join in.
Both restrictions will be lifted on Wednesday.
Mondays are always bingo days at the Mary Ann Young Senior Center in Blaine.
Players like Paul Peterson, 64, and Mary Tschida, 85, often play multiple cards.
“You sit there with the suspense of, ‘are they going to call that B13?’” Peterson said.
“Actually, three weeks out of the month we play penny bingo,” said Tschida.
The last Monday of the month is for higher stakes: a nickel a card.
“Oh, I’ve won a pot once or twice: a buck and a half!” said Carolyn Liguori, 73.
Since the 1980s, when charitable gaming came on in Minnesota, state law limited senior centers to two days of bingo a week. But all these years later, it’s not clear why – even to Tom Barrett, the executive director of Minnesota’s Gambling Control Board.
“As regulators we weren’t quite sure,” Barrett said. “And I got with my staff and said, ‘help us out, why was this restriction?’ We all kind of said we’re not really sure.”
In this year’s legislative session, though, it was one thing lawmakers agreed on, to let the games go seven days a week if they like.
“And it was bipartisan, unanimous,” said Barrett. “It passed.”
Helen Schmidt, who has been calling bingo games in Blaine and Brooklyn Park for more than a year, said it’s a good move.
“It gets me out of the house,” she said, “gets me doing things.”
Lawmakers did keep the old prize limits in place: $10 maximum winnings per game, and a $200 limit for the day.