Senior group hopes to get Bingo exception from Hillsborough County Commission

01/08/14 Janelle Irwin
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Tags: OWLS, Northdale Park, Hillsborough County Commission, Bingo, Victor Crist


Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist says Bingo can be very controversial.

photo by Janelle Irwin

A senior group from Northdale near New Tampa is one step closer to being able to play Bingo at their neighborhood park. State law says it’s OK, but a county ordinance bars the group from hosting the gambling pastime. Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan is leading a charge to change that.

“Their plan would be, any profits would go into the Northdale Park as a trust fund to support other programs at the park.”

The group OWLS which stands for Older, Wiser, Lively Seniors, already has Bingo, or Bing-OWL as they call it, but they have to play it at Town ‘N Country commons 20-minutes away. County ordinance bans the game at Northdale Park because it’s considered an aging services facility and not a park.

“The closest precedent, that I can tell, involves alcohol in parks in that we have a similar type ordinance, but we’ve made exceptions in University Area, Carrolwood Cultural Center and I think down in Ruskin, the firehouse – cultural center.”

That means commissioners could approve changes to their ordinance that would allow the OWLS to have Bingo at their facilities. But, commissioner Kevin Beckner worries making an exception for just one group could lead to an onslaught of others looking for the same.

“We do that at this facility – I’m wondering if other people are going to express interest and then maybe it might be wiser if we look at the other areas that could be impacted and then perhaps include those as well so in case people do come forward with requests, we don’t have to take individual requests. I mean I’m not supporting the expansion of gambling in any means, but it’s just from a matter of process that you allow one facility to do it, it could be reasonable to expect that there could be others wanting to do the same.”

“I agree there may be other communities that may want to do the same, but I disagree that we should go ahead upfront and do a blanket proposal.”

That’s Commissioner Victor Crist.

“Bingo can be a very controversial issue. Commissioner Murman and I have served at the legislative level and have participated in these discussions and it’s amazing what cat can come out of this bad. Some communities – for example where the OWLS are it would fit well, but there are other communities that are more youthful and children-related that it may not fit well. I think that we need to look at these on an individual basis before we open the door for what could become a commercial operation.”

County staff wasn’t given a specific date to return a proposed changed to the ordinance, but if commissioners OK the changes it would have to go through the public hearing process before being approved.

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Great story!

Great story!