The state’s biennial budget bill passed this summer contained many big changes for bingo games, including letting veteran and fraternal groups host electronic instant bingo machines.
Instant bingo is now limited to just paper tickets. But e-bingo will be permitted next year for qualifying organizations, following the development of administrative rules that will need to be approved by the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review before the application process.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Charitable Law Section, which will regulate this form of bingo, is studying the enabling language and will be developing rules on how the games are conducted and reported by licensed organizations, as well as the licensing process. The legislation also calls for the approval of the machines used in these games, so rules will also be developed for bingo manufacturers and distributors. The budget bill calls for the license application process to start Jan. 1, but licenses won’t begin until April 1.
The Charitable Law Section expects the rules development process to take several months, and it plans to keep the bingo community informed through its web page of all of the development and approval progresses.
The budget bill does not permit 501(c)(3) organizations to seek licenses for e-bingo but does include other provisions affecting all bingo licensees. The language eliminates a requirement that a youth athletic park organizations’ playing fields have been used for at least 100 days in a given year in order to qualify for a bingo license. New language also broadens the investigative authority of the Charitable Law Section in terms of the types of records that can be examined. The Attorney General’s office will be empowered to impose civil fines on licensed organizations, distributors and manufacturers for failure to abide by the bingo rules and statutory provisions. Additionally, the office can deny, suspend or limit a license if there is good cause to believe there have been breaches of fiduciary duties, theft or other types of misconduct.
The budget bill also includes another provision that will affect the operations of the Charitable Law Section. Taxpayers will be able to claim a tax credit of up to $750 per year for contributions to qualifying scholarship granting organizations that may be religious or non-religious 501(c)(3) organizations that primarily awards academic scholarships to primary and secondary students and prioritizes scholarships for low-income students.
The Charitable Law Section will be working to develop an online application process to determine the eligibility of organizations that qualify under these provisions and will share lists of organizations whose donors may qualify for the tax credits.