Gov. Jeb Bush will soon have to decide whether to sign or veto a bill that is a top priority for veterans, a key voting block in the upcoming election. The bill would allow charities to sell instant bingo tickets during their fundraising bingo games. Vets groups say their very survival could depend on the governor's signature.
The tickets may look like lottery tickets, but they're not. They're instant bingo tickets that are legal in about 40 states, but not in Florida yet.
A bill allowing the pull-tab tickets is headed to the governor for his signature, and the pressure is on.
“This is one of the top priorities of the veterans groups in the state,” says Sen. Steven Geller, (D) Hallandale Beach.
Veterans groups and other charities say they need to expand their gaming options with pull-tab tickets like these to make up for falling revenue. There are just too many other gambling outlets out there competing for the same customers.
Disabled vet Dick Giese says vets need a new way to win back their bingo players.
“I know other charities have had to quit bingo because they could no longer afford to stay open, so we felt that we need something to augment that money to stay alive,” says Giese.
But current law only allows state-operated lotteries, and since instant bingo tickets are similar to instant lottery tickets, Gov. Jeb Bush says there could be trouble.
“I've been told by our staff that there's serious constitutionality questions about it, and concerns about how do we enforce, how do we regulate this?” says Gov. Bush.
He'll have a tough decision to make, balancing the needs of charities that help veterans against what conservative groups call an expansion of gambling in an election year.
Charity groups and fraternal organizations like the Elks Club estimate they could raise their bingo proceeds by as much as 50 percent with the addition of instant bingo tickets.