What Is Amendment C? Well, It Isn’t Your Grandma’s Bingo

Written By Ian St. Clair on 10/08/2020 - Last Updated on January 16, 2021

Colorado citizens eligible to vote know what bingo is.

What they may not know is how much bingo helps their community.

That goes for raffles, as well.

That’s where Amendment C enters the equation.

Voters will see the constitutional amendment on their general election ballots, which will begin shipping to voters on Friday.

Last November, voters approved Proposition DD that allowed for sports betting in Colorado to go live on May 1.

Amendment C

So what is Amendment C?

The Charitable Bingo and Raffles Amendment will change certain laws in relation to charitable gaming in Colorado.

According to Ballotpedia, here are the changes that Amendment C would institute, if approved by at least 55% of the voters:

“The amendment would require charitable organizations to have existed for three years before obtaining a charitable gaming license instead of the current constitutional requirement of five years. The amendment would allow charitable organizations to hire managers and operators of gaming activities so long as they are not paid more than the minimum wage. Currently, the constitution requires those who operate charitable gaming activities to be a member of the organization working as an unpaid volunteer.”

Now to the key question: Why is Amendment C important?

Why should the average voter care about bingo and raffles?

Corky Kyle, the executive vice president of the Colorado Charitable Bingo Association, told PlayColorado:

“They’re kids maybe in high school. And they may be in the band or on the football team. The boosters clubs are the ones that go ahead and find ways in which to fund those activities. So the activities that are funded through bingo raffles are all for the benefit of people. The Elks do Laradon House, which is a training center for people with developmental disabilities to learn how to work and go out and get jobs. The VFWs. The American Legion. They run bingo and they support veterans and military personnel. So everything that bingo does touches the community in some way.”

Colorado charitable gaming law has been amended one time

As Kyle said, the bingo and raffle segment of the Colorado constitution was instituted 62 years ago. According to Ballotpedia, Colorado Measure 4 was a citizen initiative that amended the constitution to legalize charitable gaming (lotto, bingo and raffles) by charitable organizations.

Since the measure was approved in 1958, there has been one change. That lone alteration allowed for electronic devices to be included.

As Kyle said:

“Obviously, in 62 years, lots of things have changed. Colorado has been very receptive to gaming. We have a lot more choices for people, who do enjoy gaming, gambling, and those activities. So, the time’s come that we have to make some changes to go ahead and bring bingo up to speed, so that it can be responsible to all of those non-profits and the [ways] in which they fund their programming.”

Rich Lemon, president of the Colorado Charitable Bingo Association and general manager of Rocky Mountain Bingo Supply, looks at Amendment C as a house cleaning of sorts:

“I see it as just tidying things up and bringing it into the 21st century. It’s been a while since any changes were made, and I know why. It’s because it’s hard to do. We’ve been working on this for a year now, and, boy, we don’t even know really what’s going to happen. We’ve gotten all of this way, two-thirds of the House, two-thirds of the Senate, and now we’re on the ballot. And we have to get 55% of the vote. So it’s a lot of work. We’ve actually grown a pretty good army of people helping us do this within our industry. But, boy, if this fails, I hate to see how the wind will go out of [the] sails. If it succeeds, the sky’s the limit. Our organization will just get stronger.”

How Amendment C helps

For both Kyle and Lemon, the reduction from five years to three and the ability to pay volunteers minimum wage is how bingo can grow in the state.

As The Denver Channel points out, there used to be roughly 49 bingo halls across the state that generated roughly $230 million annually. The story adds that there are now only 11 bingo halls across Colorado that generate about $22 million per year.

According to Kyle:

“There’s only 800 licensees in the state, and there’s almost 9,000 non-profits in the state. So tell me what’s wrong with that picture? That’s not enough. And the reason is it’s so restrictive. If other non-profits knew about the opportunities that bingo and raffles provide, I think they’d take advantage of it. But we have to make current with the times. That’s why we’re reducing the time period that you have to be in existence from five years to three. And the other thing is being able to compensate the volunteers and workers for the time that they spend, if they choose to do that. The groups have control over that, we’re just trying to open it up and they can make the decisions as to how they want to run their games.”

Lifting current restrictions

If voters approve Amendment C, those restrictions will get lifted.

The result?

As Lemon said:

“Getting involved in bingo in three years as opposed to five years … that increases the pool of non-profits that can be involved. A lot of times, a non-profit won’t make it five years. They go broke before they get to five years. We wanted it to be one year, but we had to make some concessions with the (Colorado) Gaming Association, so we decided to go with three years. And then being able to have people who may or may not be registered members of the organization being able to work, that’ll also help. Bingo hall owners could bring in an outside person to help call. Or maybe there are some people who are sick today or can’t make it to bingo, you’ll have a bigger pool to help. So all of that will add up to more revenue overall.”

No opposition to Amendment C

Here’s where it’s crucial to remember that all the revenue from bingo and raffles goes to non-profits.

So whether it’s your kid’s band or football team, the Elks Lodge or the VFW, any and all money helps those groups.

Kyle is quick to point out that Amendment C has no opposition.

However, there are still misconceptions — even in your ballot handbook that describes the amendment. Kyle wants to clear those up.

As he said:

“One, they think it’s an additional tax. We’ve heard that a few times. And it’s not a tax. Bingo is totally cash-funded, by licensing fees and quarterly fees on earnings that go into the secretary of state’s office. So there is no budget item in the state budget nor is there any tax on people to allow bingo to exist. This is just like everything else. It’s just like casinos, off-track (betting) and sports betting where those regulators, those particular groups, are all cash funded. So there’s no draw down or any additional tax.

The other thing that we hear is this would allow for professional bingo workers. Now, what people have to realize is that only non-profits can get a bingo license in Colorado. If someone was interested in doing bingo and making a living off of it, they can’t because they’re not a non-profit. But there is a misconception there that this would professionalize the business that may cause some harm. I don’t know how, but that’s one of the rumors that’s out there.”

Bringing Colorado bingo into 2020

In the end, Amendment C will bring bingo and raffle games into 2020. This will help grow the potential pool of non-profits that use bingo as a way to raise money. The result will help the community.

We all know about bingo, but the money it raises to better the community is not as well known.

Kyle and Lemon are hopeful voters will realize how much Amendment C can grow that pool.

As Kyle said:

“A lot of people get a big smile on their face because they remember all of those times that they played bingo raffles when they were growing up. The important thing to remember is that bingo raffles are huge in Colorado from the standpoint of the charities, non-profits, and programs that bingo raffles support.”

Added Lemon:

“It’s cumbersome to run these games and run raffles with all volunteers. So being able to pay workers, up to minimum wage, will help run sessions more consistently. There will be less cancellations. So that’s what we’re looking for, to increase the revenue to non-profits.”

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Ian St. Clair

Ian is an award-winning sports journalist and a University of Northern Colorado graduate. He’s a Colorado native and has over a decade of experience covering college and professional athletics. He broke into the gambling industry right as Colorado launched legal sports betting in 2020. Ian now manages the sites for some of the biggest gambling markets in North America and is an analyst for PlayColorado.

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