RV parks may soon be welcomed back into the bingo business.
State Rep. Carl Littlefield has sponsored a bill that would do away with a glitch in Florida's bingo statutes that excludes RV parks from the various groups allowed to play the game. He expects his bill to pass.
"All those present criminals can be released," quipped the Dade City Republican, whose district includes many RV parks that only recently learned their bingo games were illegal.
Apparently few communities are aware of the state's restrictions against bingo in RV parks or at least aren't enforcing them. But after Pasco started enforcing its own bingo ordinance last year, authorities took a closer look at state statutes and found the problem with RV parks. The Sheriff's Office has informed those parks they no longer can play the game because of the state law.
"All the RV parks, according to the information we're getting, are supposedly shut down as far as playing," said Capt. Jerry Godwin of the Sheriff's Office.
Littlefield said he has received hundreds of complaints about the matter. Though the Legislature may clear up the problem in a few months, Pasco RV Association President Paul Correia said the fuss already may have damaged Pasco's appeal as a seasonal destination for RV owners.
"They're telling us they're not going to come back to this area because it's not very hospitable," he said.
Even if the legislation doesn't pass, RV park residents have an out. If they band together as a non-profit organization and obtain non-profit recognition from the IRS, the county will allow them to play.
Meanwhile, Pasco's bingo groups have enlisted the support of State Rep. John Long, D-Land O'Lakes, to thwart another bill that concerns them.
The proposal would allow commercial bingo halls to operate six days a week, and county officials worry it might supersede the county ordinance limiting all bingo halls to just two weekly sessions. But Long's influence as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee is enough to assure county officials that Pasco's bingo ordinance is safe.
"When John Long tells me it's going to die in committee, I've got to agree with him," said County Commissioner Ed Collins, the chief advocate for Pasco's new bingo ordinance.