Bingo and beer…together again

Minneapolis residents can now play a little bingo while tipping back a beer.

The Minneapolis City Council voted Aug. 31 to legalize bar bingo. A longstanding city ordinance banned the sale, consumption or possession of alcohol in a room where bingo was being played.

Council Member Paul Ostrow (1st Ward) said he authored the ordinance change after the Northeast Lions Club visited him this spring and made the case that Minneapolis’ laws were putting bars and charitable gambling organizations at a competitive disadvantage. Neighboring suburbs allow bar bingo, which has become a popular form of entertainment.

"It didn’t make a lot of sense to put our bars at a competitive disadvantage to the extent that people see this as a reason to go to a bar and maybe stay longer. And it didn’t make sense to me to put our charities at a disadvantage. And we’d be doing both by continuing to bar bar bingo," Ostrow said.

The Council also approved several other changes to the city’s gambling ordinance. Organizations such as the Lions Club were previously allowed to have a maximum of seven gambling locations in the city, with no more than three of them pull-tab booths. Under the ordinance change, organizations will be allowed up to 10 gambling locations in the city, without restrictions on the number of pull-tab booths.

Employees of the bar will also be allowed to legally gamble on the premises so long as they’re not involved in conducting the gambling or selling the pull tabs or tipboards. Gambling employees may also purchase pull tabs or tipboards so long as they’re not conducting gambling at that site. The organization also needs to post the major prizes awarded.

All of the changes were made to better align the city’s gambling ordinance with state law, Ostrow said.