Bingo bylaw still in works
Jackpot rules need second thought: council

Cindy MacDougall
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Jan 14/00) - A proposed bingo bylaw that was shaking up bingo daubers around Yellowknife will not play out just yet.

City council voted seven to one Monday to send the new bylaw back to administration for changes. The bylaw's proposed ban on lowering advertised bingo jackpots once the bingo starts has caused some controversy among bingo-players.

Elk's Club manager Dave Hurley brought the bingo players' concerns to chambers Monday.

"If you force groups to go ahead with a bingo when there's not enough players (to pay for the jackpot) the non-profit groups running the bingo will lose a lot of money," Hurley said.

"But to tell players, after a two-hour wait in 40 below, 'They'll be no bingo,' it's not going to work."

Hurley said more than 100 non-profit organizations raise money by running bingos at the Elk's Club. He said cancelling games when there's a low turnout could hurt future fund-raising efforts.

"Bingo players have a very long memory," he said later. "If a group has to cancel a bingo, the players might not go to that organization's next bingo."

Even though the bylaw was scheduled for final approval Monday, councillors took the time to discuss Hurley's concerns.

Coun. Bob Brooks said bingo operators seem to have a working system presently in place to deal with lowering jackpots.

"If they found they didn't have enough people to play, the caller would ask the audience if it's OK to lower the jackpot," Brooks said. "If someone disagreed, they cancelled the bingo."

Hurley verified this, saying it helps groups avoid losing money or upsetting players.

Hurley also said tracking down a city official to change a bingo licence to allow the new jackpot amount once evening bingos start, which is required by the current bylaw, is very difficult.

Brooks moved to send the bylaw back to administration. He said city officials must consider the needs of the players and the operators.

"All they ask is to make sure what they've done for several years goes into the new bylaw," Brooks said. "They don't want to do anything illegal."

Coun. Ben McDonald, who voted against sending the bylaw back for revision, suggested passing the bylaw because it allowed bingo licences to have special conditions, such as the ability to lower a jackpot.

"We could do it by amending the structure of the licence," McDonald said.

However, Mayor Dave Lovell agreed with Brooks.

"Let us give administration time to research this," he said. "If we operated on the licence this long, what's two weeks more?"

The bingo bylaw will be reconsidered by council Jan. 24.