Jackpot: Joe Gruters wants bigger payouts for Florida bingo players
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Legislation could also allow digital games to be played.

The winnings for bingo could soon grow bigger in Florida.

Sen. Joe Gruters filed legislation Tuesday to hike the cap on instant bingo prizes. The bill (SB 840) would also establish regulations for electronic bingo cards in Florida.

As far as winnings go, Florida statute now allows for authorized bingo games with no more than 4,000 instant bingo tickets, with the predetermined prize payout being at least 65% of the total receipts. So if a full 4,000 tickets were sold for $1 a piece, the payout would typically be $2,600 for the winner.

Gruters’ bill would hike the cap on tickets to 25,000. That means the payout if that many tickets were sold for $1 would be at least $16,250.

That helps demonstrate how bingo, while considered a low-grade level of gambling loved by fixed-income retirees, could become a more high-stakes game.

The legislation also allows for technological modernization of bingo in Florida, including the use of electronic displays as opposed to physical placards and tickets. The bill as written includes rules to ensure only certified, independently analyzed software can be used to ensure games aren’t fixed.

“This bill updates and modernizes Florida’s bingo law to help our struggling veteran and fraternal organizations raise much needed donations so that they can continue their charitable missions in our communities,” Gruters, a Sarasota Republican, said.

State law only allows charitable organizations, veterans’ groups and nonprofit organizations that have qualified for 501(c) tax exemptions to operate bingo games. Gruters’ bill doesn’t change that.

It does make clear a number of restrictions on who can operate games, including in electronic form, prohibit those who have been convicted of fraud or who were ever a member of an illegal gambling ring from running a bingo game.

It also sets rules on bingo software, an important facet once games can be played electronically.

There has not yet been any companion legislation filed in the House for Gruters’ bill.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.


One comment

  • Bob Reid

    January 27, 2021 at 10:25 am

    If the retirees are on fixed incomes, they should not be wasting their money on gambling. That is not a hard concept to understand. There are publicly financed facilities and services, like the Senior Center in Tallahassee and OLLI run by FSU for their fun and betterment. Or, they can participate in community volunteer programs if they feel that they are alone–by doing so they will help others and meet people.

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