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A group of bingo-obsessed seniors from Queens may go down in the history books as statewide game changers.
The since-disbanded posse of old-time outlaws were fined some five years ago when a tipster with way too much on their hands ratted them out for holding too many bingo competitions at the Forest Hills senior center, breaking a rarely enforced — and little known — law that community organizations without a state-issued license can only host the games up to 15 days per year.
The Big Apple’s tight-knit bingo community was understandably upset by the crackdown, first reported by the Queens Chronicle.
“That’s ridiculous!” fumed Maureen Legoff, 74, prior to a heated Friday night contest at Fifth Avenue Bingo in Park Slope.
“It’s almost like you can go to the Army, but you can’t smoke a pack of cigarettes.”
She added: “Losing money at bingo is better than losing your virginity at a hookah bar!”
But now Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing) is looking to allow non-licensed groups to get their “legs elevens” and “clickety clicks”-on, up to two times a week.
“It’s not about gambling, it’s about socializing,” said Stavisky, who described the legislation as a “common sense” bill, which was approved April 8 in the state Senate.
Her proposal doesn’t change the maximum prize of $150 per year; it only expands the number of games allowed and covers nonprofit and religious organizations.
“Senior centers give people a reason to get up in the morning instead of staring at four walls. It’s about seeing old friends and making new ones,” the lawmaker said.
Stavisky’s bill has yet to pass in the Assembly, where it’s sponsored by Assemblyman David Rosenthal (D-Flushing). Still, she is confident the legislation will pass because “the Assembly members realize there are senior centers in their district that will benefit.”
The most recent bingo violation to come before the city happened in December, when a woman claimed she was denied her winnings at a Queens social group. The matter is pending, according to a spokeswoman for the city Department of Consumer Affairs.
“The prize at bingo games at one of the centers in my district is a cookie. Hardly high-stakes gambling,” Stavisky said.
“Bingo!” said 70-year-old gamer “Sydney,” of Bay Ridge.
“I think we have bigger fish to fry than to worry about flippin’ bingo! You turn on the news and it’s who’s stabbing who…” She noted she once won $4,000 but you “also go through dry spells. Some people don’t have children or family. Bingo fills the gaps.”
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