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Monday, December 14, 2009

Bingo! San Francisco Court Rules Against Gambling-Loving Charities, Disabled Groups.

Posted By on Mon, Dec 14, 2009 at 8:30 AM

click to enlarge Not so fast, Gramps! This ain't Guadalcanal, it's bingo -- there are rules.
  • Not so fast, Gramps! This ain't Guadalcanal, it's bingo -- there are rules.
San Francisco's 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last week did not call the numbers a consortium of  charities and disabled activists were hoping for, quashing an order that had been keeping police from enforcing state bans on electric bingo machines.

In doing so, the court ruled that a 2008 state law -- Senate Bill 1369 -- banning certain models of electronic bingo devices does not contravene the Americans With Disabilities Act. (those of you who ever wagered that the ADA would be used to fight for the rights of the disabled to participate in electronic bingo action, go collect your winnings now). This ruling was a blow to the eclectic group of electric bingo partisans taking on the Bureau of Gambling Control and Sacramento County's Sheriff's Department: American Legion Posts, high school athletic boosters, United Cerebral Palsy of Sacramento, and, naturally, the makers of electric bingo machines.

A state district court had actually bought the plaintiffs' argument and granted a preliminary injunction forbidding law enforcement to move in on the charities and disabled folks enjoying their electronic bingo. Yet one gets the feeling that the judges on the 9th Circuit Court panel wonder if their colleagues have bingo balls for brains: "The district court ... abused its discretion in granting plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction."

While the circuit court was dubious that the charities, disabled, et al. would suffer "irreparable harm" from losing out on the right to play electronic bingo, it did feel the people of California suffer "irreparable injury whenever an enactment of its people or their representatives is enjoined."

The disabled activists' claims are also smacked down with legalistic gusto: "The disabled plaintiffs maintain that, in the absence of a preliminary injunction, they (like everyone else in California) will be prevented from playing electronic bingo. That may be true, but they (like everyone else in California) will still be able to play live call bingo ... The temporary inability of disabled plaintiffs to play a game illegal to all other individuals in California cannot be deemed a 'great and immediate' harm."

In a final dig at the district court, the 9th spelled out its ruling with language that made the earlier ruling appear ridiculous. When deciding who suffers from an injunction against enforcing state laws, whose case is greater: The people of California, who have "repeatedly expressed and recently reaffirmed their interest in strictly regulating gambling in their state"? Or disabled people "who wish to gamble using electronic machines unavailable under state law to everyone else in California" and charities "seeking to raise money through the use of these illegal machines"?

To top it off, the ruling claimed that the so-called electronic bingo machines were nothing other than "a casino-style game virtually indistinguishable from a run-of-the-mill slot machine."

Well, well. To paraphrase the old line from Casablanca, it seems there was gambling going on in this casino.

H/T   |   Courthouse News

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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