At Towne Hall Bingo in Norfolk, the games begin just after midnight Friday and continue 48 straight hours until midnight Sunday.

In Roanoke, new entrances were created to enable one bingo establishment to subdivide itself into three parlors.

These are but two of the loopholes enterprising businessmen have found to get around new state restrictions preventing bingo parlors from operating more than two days a week.

Designed to put the brakes on the $50-million-a-year industry, the new regulations have had virtually no effect on Virginia's only form of legalized gambling.

"You put your hand in one place, trying to control it, and something gets sucked out somewhere else," says Attorney General J. Marshall Coleman, who says he has had to issue more legal opinions on bingo practices than any other subject.

Although the new law is only seven weeks old, Coleman and other law enforcement officials are convinced that abuses similar to those that led to a major bingo scandal in Northern Virginia last year are still occurring.

The Virginia experience has been repeated in many of the other 37 states where bingo is legal.

Investigators in Philadelphis, Miami, Atlanta and Los Angeles have found instances of proceeds from the game -- America's third most popular legal betting past-time behind casinos and horse races -- going into the pockets of operators rather than to charity.

Bingo is vulnerable because it is strictly a cash operation, with popular games generating thousands of dollars each night. Investigators in Virginia say that despite stricter audit controls in the new law, some of that cash can be skimmed off and disappear.

"Even with an audit, it's very, very difficult -- almost impossible -- to really be sure that the money is going where it should be," says Fairfax County bingo auditor Ronald A. Coen.

"As long as you have bingo, you will have people tempted to take the money," says Alexandria attorney Edward J. White who, as special prosecutor, obtained five convictions in last year's scandal.

White and other prosecutors wanted the state legislature to outlaw "instant bingo," a lottery ticket version of bingo that they say is the most likely target of skimming. But they ran up against the state's influential bingo lobby, consisting largely of volunteer workers from the 910 church and charitable groups in Virginia which last year sponsored bingo games.

Those organizations came out in force in January in Richmond to oppose a provision outlawing instant bingo. They instead convinced legislators to give local governments the option to kill the game, then lobbied on the local level to see that localities did not exercise that option.

Not one has.

"The hustlers didn't have to do anything," says a bitter Robert F. Horan, Fairfax County commonwealth's attorney. "The citizens did it all for them."

Bingo's supporters contend the game has become an essential fundraising tool for worthy causes ranging from medical research to scholarship funds to volunteer fire equipment. "The money is doing good," says Paul Kelly, director of the Annandale Boys Club, whose $984,407 bingo gross last year made it Northern Virginia's second largest game. "Without it, we would have gone bankrupt."

Maryland's bingo laws are a pot-pourri, with the game restricted to charitable groups in most localities. The exception is Anne Arundel County, where commercial bingo is legal and five bingo halls grossed nearly $6 million last year.

In the District of Columbia, bingo is illegal.

Virginia legalized bingo in 1973. The game was supposed to be sponsored by nonprofit groups and operated by unpaid volunteers, with all proceeds going to charity.

But reality, as revealed in last year's bingo scandal, was quite different. Fairfax and Alexandria investigators found commercial promoters had illegally taken control of several games supposedly run for charity.

Two promoters, George F. Berry and Alva Ford Thompson of United Charities Inc., pleaded guilty to charges they illegally skimmed more than $300,000 from games they ran for three Fairfax charities. Of the more than $1.1 million the two men grossed, the charities received only $22,000.

Investigators also alleged that payoffs to public officials were an accepted practice among bingo operators.

Former Alexandria prosecutor William L. Cowhig was acquitted in a payoff trial last December despite testimony from one bingo operator that he paid Cowhig $32,000 in bribes.

To curb abuses, the Virginia General Assembly earlier this year tightened the law by putting a $1,000 lid on jackpots, increasing auditing requirements and limiting each charitable group and commercial bingo hall to two nights a week. (A charitable group that owns a hall can use it two nights and rent it to others for the remainder of the week.)

Kelly of the Annandale Boys Club and other bingo proponents in Northern Virginia, who mostly conduct the games in building they own, say they can live with the new restrictions. But elsewhere in the state, where many charitable groups have rented bingo halls from commercial landlords, some operators are not so sure their game will survive.

At least one Richmond charity, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's Virginia chapter, says the new law has cost it money because it was forced to move its once-a-week game from a commercial hall to one owned by another charity.

"Our regular customers just don't know how to find us anymore," says Neil Cline, the chapter's director. "We made about $25,000 last year from bingo, but we've lost maybe $100 a week for the last three weeks."

The foundation is among two groups of charities and landlords who have gone into federal courts in Richmond and Roanoke seeking to overturn the law, which they contend discriminates against owners of commercial halls. While judges in both courts refused to issue injunctions against the law, they have scheduled hearings in the next month.

In the meantime, says Richmond attorney Dennis Dohnal who represents the groups, many of his clients "are hanging on by their fingernails."

The main sponsor of the new restrictions, Del. Ralph L. Axselle Jr. (D-Henrico), says he is confident the law is constitutional. He is more concerned about whether it will prove effective.

"Certainly there are some people trying to find loopholess says Axselle. "The next two years are fairly crucial for bingo. If we have a recurrence of the problems we saw in Northern Virginia, we'll have to take a harder look."

But even some of the lawmakers who supported the new reforms are skeptical.

"Scandal is alive and well under the surface, we just haven't seen it yet," says Sen. Wiley F. Mitchell Jr. (R-Alexandria). "I am as confident that another scandal will come along as I am confident that I am talking to you.