A Virginia Senate committee set up a conflict with the House of Delegates over bingo regulation last night by voting to outlaw "instant" bingo and to limit games at any one location to three times a week.
The House already has passed a milder bill that would leave it up to cities and counties to prohibit instant bingo and puts no limit on the number of times a bingo hall can be used.
The tougher Senate version reflects uneasiness among many legislators over large-scale bingo operations in Northern Virginia and elsewhere in the state.
William L. Cowhig resigned as Alexandria's commonwealth attorney last week in exchange for dismissal of a charge that he operated an illegal bingo game in the city.
His resignation culminated a series of cases handled by the city's special bingo prosecutor, Edward J. White. White told the Senate General Laws Committee last week that bingo has become "big time gambling' in Virginia and recommended that it be banned altogether. He supported the Senate amendments that tightened restrictions in the House bill.
Instant bingo is a game in which players determine immediately from symbols on a card they purchase whether they have won a prize. Its critics characterize it as "cardboard slot machines" and contend that it generates cash flows in bingo halls that are impossible to control.
The provision in the Senate bill limiting play to three times a week at any one location is an attempt to put commercial bingo halls out of business.
This and other provisions of the bill are intended to assure that only licensed civic and charitable organizations benefit from the games
Sen. Charles J. Colgan (D-Prince William) cast the only vote against the Senate bill on the 15-member General Laws Committee. He opposed the instant bingo and game limit provisions. Northern Virginia Sens. Wiley F. Mitchell Jr. (R-Alexandria), Adelard L. Brault (D-Fairfax) and Clive L. DuVal II (D-Fairfax) supported all the proposed restrictions.