Fight Over Video Bingo Machines Pits VFW Against Casinos

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The Veterans of Foreign Wars say their bingo games are under attack, but opponents say those games are nothing more than illegal slot machines.

Old fashioned bingo cards at VFW halls have been replaced by electronic machines.

"If we lose the raffle terminals, we've lost it," said Bill Seagraves from VFW Ohio charities.  "Without this there will be no more charity for veterans fraternal organizations.  They'll be completely wiped out."

Last fall Attorney General Mike DeWine ordered the veterans charities to stop operating what he called illegal slot machines.

The VFW then sued and a judge granted a temporary restraining order allowing the machines to remain operational.

Now lawmakers are debating a bill that will allow the machines to be operated at VFW posts.

"We're a group of veterans that have already had our fight," said Earl White.  "We shouldn't have to fight twice for the same territory.  This is something we've built and contributed to."

Seagraves says that if the legislation is not approved it could mean a $5 million loss for Ohio charities.

"We build some ramps for veterans who come back with missing limbs," said Seagraves.  "We build decks for them so they can sit out.  We've built ramps for some of the folks who can't get out of their house."

DeWine's office tells 10TV he has no position on the proposed bill.

Earlier this week veterans packed a House committee room in support of House Bill 325.

The bill is unlikely to move very quickly because other gambling interests like casinos, racinos and the bowling industry are adamantly opposed.

"It's not only an anti-Ohio jobs bill but it benefits an out of state manufacturer," said David Corey of the Bowling Centers Association of Ohio.

Corey says the bill isn't fair because it would allow the VFW to operate machines that other organizations cannot.

"We understand where they're coming from but it just benefits them," said Corey.