Charitable bingo game organizers hope to find relief from staffing shortages as a result of an amendment passed Tuesday by Missouri voters.

Amendment 4 passed 52 to 48 percent. Boone County voters supported the measure, 60 percent voting “yes” and 40 percent voting “no.”

Tom Murphy, president of Association of Charitable Games of Missouri, said the amendment’s passing is the result of years of fighting.

“I’ve been working on getting this thing changed since 2006, so you know how I feel,” Murphy said. “I’m thrilled to death because it’s definitely gonna help a lot of bingos in the state.”

The amendment will reduce the time a person must be a member of an organization that runs bingo games in order to volunteer to work games for that organization. The previous requirement, two years of membership, will be reduced to six months.

Phil Hanson, bingo chair of the Cosmopolitan Club of Columbia, said the amendment’s narrow win represents a lack of knowledge about bingo among Missouri voters.

“(Amendment 4 supporters didn’t) have the funds to get the message out to the voters,” Hanson said. “It really ought to be a no-brainer.”

According to Gaming Commission annual reports, there were 435 regular bingo license holders in 2006 and only 227 in 2018. Murphy said the majority of bingo games that fold cite a volunteer shortage as their cause for shutting down.

Charitable bingo games have generated more than $100 million in tax revenue for the state’s Proceeds for Education Fund since bingo was legalized in 1980, according to the Missouri Gaming Commission. In 2017, bingo and related charitable games produced about $8.6 million in organizational and other charity donations.

The amendment also removes language in the constitution prohibiting the advertising of bingo games, which was already ruled unconstitutional in 1998 by a United States District Court.

Supervising editor is Mark Horvit.

  • State government reporter for the Columbia Missourian. I am a senior studying convergence journalism. Reach me at ccjd45@mail.missouri.edu.

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