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Area bingo halls hemorrhage as game rooms go unregulated

Posted at 6:57 PM, Sep 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-27 20:41:32-04

CORPUS CHRISTI — A Sept. 27 post on El Mercado Night Bingo on Holly and Airline Road’s Facebook page said they were closed until further notice.

Isaac Valencia, the owner of El Mercado Night Bingo and the day bingo at La Valencia said he’s lost so many customers as game rooms continue to go unregulated.

Valencia wasn’t ready to go on camera because he still had to notify vendors and charities he works with about shutting down his business as of Tuesday.

“I know several bingo halls here in town that have cut their hours down to three or three times a week,” James “JB” Baker said.

Justin Aguilar is the general manager at Bingoland and Las Vegas Bingo, a hall that faced similar issues.

“Our sales started steadily declining meaning less people were coming out to play because they were able to win more money illegally over there,” Aguilar said.

Unlike game rooms, bingo halls are regulated by the state and run as non-profits.

“Here, we know that the money is going back into the community,” Baker said.

Besides paying for the facilities and staffs wages, the money bingo halls receive goes to local charities.

“They depend on our charitable donations to be able to not only stay in business, but to do their part to give back to their community,” Aguilar said.

Aguilar said since 2017, he’s lost 60-70 percent of his business and charities like Corpus Christi Voices for Life suffered from it.

Their principal officer Betty Sheets told commissioners just how much it’s affected their organization at a Nueces County Commissioners Court meeting on Feb. 2.

“We weren’t getting any bingo money and I’m not gonna look at a child’s eyes, a mother’s eyes, anybody here ‘If you need help, I’ll get you that help,'” Sheets said. “I promise you that.”

In May, commissioners court approved new game room regulations that were supposed to go into effect Oct. 1, but that was pushed back until the Jan. 2, 2023.