Senior Citizens Harassed For Playing Bingo

Five Hundred senior citizens are facing possible fines of 600,000 euros ($815,000) for the heinous crime of wagering 27 cents on bingo games. Members of the Peña de Amigos de la Tercera Edad (Elderly Friends Club) in Puerto de Sagunto in the Valencia region defended their actions and said that the money raised by the bingo games go to the expenses of maintaining their club’s venue.

The members, ranging in age from 76 to 92 could face charges because their bingo games conflicts with the region’s gaming laws that say the bingo games may only be held at previously authorized sites. The region’s gambling laws exclude ‘purely leisure’ bingo games that are not used to make profits. The seniors contend that their games are covered by the exclusion. The group’s vice president Manuel Rios told reporters that the club is only a group of retirees that use the bingo games to pay for their meeting site and the office and the bar. Rios said “But we never have more money” that what is raised by the bingo games.

Rios also pointed out that the group contributes to charitable causes. He cited the group’s donation of 2,700 euros ($3,600) to help the victims of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Club member Rafael Chinchilla said that the bingo games are actually “therapy” for the group “because there are older people (in the club) who need to be entertained.” Members say they go to the club to relax and for entertainment. Club member Maria Garrido added “and here we are, nervous, because the police are not telling us and when they do tell you they’re in the middle of the room.” Garrido said that without the revenue from bingo games the club will not be able to pay for the club which has monthly expenses of about 1,600 euros ($2,170).

This is not the first time the club has been harassed by police. In 2000 the club had to pay a of about $1,630 for playing bingo but a court decided in the club’s favor and returned the fine with interest. Valencia regional administration officials refused to provide any information about the case or the potential fine. Officials did say that they had been monitoring the club’s activities since police reported the ‘violation.’ One would think that the police have better things to do than harassing a group of senior citizens for playing bingo. Ironically online bingo is perfectly legal in Spain.