Nonprofit groups in Washington soon will be able to seek licenses to run legalized raffles and bingo games here, but for some the privilege won't come cheap, according to regulations now before the D.C. Lottery and Charitable Games Control Board.
While senior citizens groups could be licensed at no cost to hold "recreational" bingo games, a one-year license for any other group could cost as much as $1,000, according to a detailed set of proposed rules outlining who can organize raffles and bingo games in Washington, and how the games would be conducted.
For years such games have flourished here as a source of entertainment and means to raise money for community schools and other charities. They were not sanctioned by law until Washington voters passed a referendum in 1980 establishing a city-run lottery and legalizing raffles and bingo for charitable purposes.
Even though that law went into effect in March 1981, the games have remained technically illegal because the board has not begun issuing licenses. That process is expected to begin after Aug. 9, when the rules for operating the games are scheduled to take effect.
The board is now seeking public comment on its 21-page set of proposed rules, released earlier this month. A public hearing on the plans attracted more than 60 people to the City Council chambers Tuesday night. Ten people addressed the board, voicing some concerns about the detail and scope of the regulations and raising technical questions about how the plans would work.
If the board makes any major changes after reviewing the public comments, the effective date would be postponed.
The proposed regulations provide for nonprofit groups such as religious, civic, fraternal, social and humane organizations to sponsor raffle and bingo games to raise money for charitable purposes. They would allow only senior citizens groups to sponsor "recreational" bingo games without payment of a license fee.
The bingo regulations would set up four categories of licenses, depending on the number of patrons expected to attend, with license fees ranging from nothing for senior citizen groups to $1,000 for games set up to accommodate 500 or more people.
The regulations also allow "limited" licenses that are good for three days, and range in cost, again depending on the number of patrons expected, from $10 for senior citizen groups to $200.
All bingo licenses prohibit groups from running more than two games a week, neither of which may be longer than four hours. And no raffles or bingo could be held in Georgetown or the federal enclave.
Under the bingo regulations, patrons could not be charged more than $2 for admission, which must include a bingo card. Under the first three licensing categories, extra cards could cost no more than $1 each.
Prizes would be regulated under the board's rules. For example, most bingo operations would be prevented from awarding more than $1,000 a game and $5,000 in a day's operation.
For raffles, annual licenses would be issued in five categories. In the first group, which places no limits on the value of prizes, a license would cost $1,500. Licenses for the remaining categories would range from $10 to $1,000, and prohibit prizes from exceeding $500 to $100,000, depending on the category.
The regulations would require all groups to be bonded to ensure that winners receive prizes they had been promised.