Guam Bingo Initiative Generates Controversy

Bingo rarely generates controversy outside of the United States. Since bingo is considered gambling social conservatives in the US have opposed moves by commercial developers, religious and charity bingo groups to operate bingo games. In the UK and Europe bingo is considered a socially acceptable form of gambling. In Guam, which is an unincorporated territory of the United States in the Western Pacific bingo has created a lot of controversy. The voters in Guam will decide the fate of commercial bingo on the island when they go to the polls this November. Last week several village mayors spoke out against commercial bingo and said they are concerned about the impact commercial bingo would have on groups that already sponsor bingo games.

Guam’s national golf federation which, relies on bingo revenues to send players to international competitions, expressed concerns saying that commercial bingo could possible shut the golf federation down. The Guam Election Commission’s legal counsel has been preparing a summary of the bingo measure and said he believes that the initiative will not affect existing nonprofit bingo games on the island. Mayors’ Council of Guam said in a draft resolution that commercial bingo would create a “monopoly” and “effectively eliminate the senior centers for manamko.” (Manamko is a term used in Guam for the elderly who are greatly respected as teachers)

Guam Election Commission’s legal counsel, Cunliffe & Cook, recently completed an analysis of the initiative which will be published on the Guam Election Commission’s website to help voters understand the measure. Attorney Jeff Moots of Cunliffe & Cook says that the initiative will not affect the legality of nonprofit bingo. Moots stated “Currently it is illegal to have gambling of any sort including Bingo on Guam except as provided in Title 9 I believe Chapter 64 of the Guam Code. That exception is for non-profit bingo and this bill or this proposed initiative does nothing to modify the provisions of the law for the nonprofit operation of bingo.”

The initiative defines bingo as “The game of bingo (whether or not electronic, computer or other technological assistance or aids are used in connection therewith) which is a game of chance played between multiple people for prizes….” It would appear that bingo has generated a lot of controversy on this tropical island. If the initiative is unsuccessful residents can still play nonprofit bingo games or internet bingo.