JEFFERSON CITY — No one yelled "Bingo!" but it was the topic of a Senate committee hearing on Wednesday.
Bingo events could be longer and held more frequently under a Senate bill that would lessen restrictions on the game.
The bill, heard by the Senate Ways and Means Committee, would allow bingo license holders to conduct up to two events each week, rather than one as currently allowed.
"Our bingo halls are facing a lot of competition," the bill's sponsor, Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, said at the hearing. "There's a lot of onerous restrictions in some cases, and as most of us know, the bingo halls back home — they are operated by fraternal, civic organizations, veteran's organizations— and they plow all their money back into the local community. They just do a fantastic job."
He said there is half the number of bingo halls in the state as there were in 1995, falling from about 900 to near 375.
Pearce said at the hearing that the House and Senate passed similar bills last year, but it was vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon.
According to the governor's veto explanation, he rejected the bill because it would cause the Bingo Proceeds for Education Fund to lose $2.2 million each year, which would have "significant negative fiscal impact on the Missouri Schools for the Deaf, Blind and Severely Disabled."
With some changes to this year's bill, Pearce said he hopes it will gain approval. He said some lawmakers last year speculated the bill would have taken some money away from the general revenue, so anything that might lead to that in this year's was removed.
Currently, there can only be four "special games" each year, such as events on holidays. The proposed legislation would extend the annual number to 15 games and also extend the hours to 1 a.m.
"For example, New Year's Eve: You wouldn't have to stop the bingo game at midnight," Pearce said.
No date to vote on the bill has been set.