Seniors in Mississauga and Brampton have been told to stop playing bingo because they’re breaking gambling laws.
Jean Marjor of the Ontario Alcohol and Gaming Commission told CityNews the directive came after someone complained to the City of Mississauga, saying unlicenced games were taking place at municipal centres.
The city sought the advice of the commission.
“We responded that in order for the bingos to continue to operate they required licencing,” Marjor said. “The seniors groups in question appeared not to want to be licenced and as a result the municipality made a decision….to advise the groups to cease and desist the bingo operations.”
Brampton followed suit.
Marjor admits the games are “benign” but says it’s not difficult, or costly, to acquire a licence.
“I don’t think it’s too cumbersome to have them operate on the right side of the law,” he advised. “The restriction in the criminal code is that the monies have to be used for charitable or religious purposes. And from what I heard from the groups – they are donating money for local community groups.
“I think there’s a way out here, but they have to meet us half way and apply for a licence …”
He also says his agency isn’t interested in cracking down on seniors wielding rolls of quarters,
“If someone decides to run gambling without a licence, that is a police matter … It’s up to the discretion of the police to decide whether or not to lay criminal charges.”
“It is hardly a priority,” he concludes. “I have way more important things to look at.”
Seniors in Brampton were peeved by the crackdown.
“It’s non-profit,” said Gord Thompson. “If they were making a profit off it, I could see it. But they aren’t making any money off of it a all.”
“Isn’t that just wonderful?” added a sarcastic Betty Vandersluis. “It’s pathetic is what it is.”
In Brampton a small compromise has been struck. Seniors can still play bingo on Friday nights, but there’s no charge to play and instead of cash, gift cards are handed out as prizes.