The City Council on Monday took steps to amend its bingo ordinance to tighten city control of bingo games, ensure that the games are partially run by residents and require that a portion of the proceeds be spent on community services.
"Our intent is to provide a vehicle for local, nonprofit organizations to raise funds . . . so that money is put back into our community," Councilman George Cole said.
The council voted 4 to 0 for the amendment on its first reading, with Mayor George Simmons absent.
Based on a negative police report, the council also rejected an appeal by the German Crusaders Church, a group based in Huntington Beach, that had been denied by city staff a license to operate bingo games in Bell.
Bell-Cudahy Police Chief Frank Fording told representatives of the group at the council meeting that "a criminal investigation is being conducted by police (in another city) regarding your organization" and its bingo operations. Fording declined to identify the city.
Plans to Build Churches
"I have not been informed of this," said Hans Klein, a resident of Orange and a member of the German Crusaders. The group, which has its main offices in Huntington Beach and branches in Torrance and Corona, plans to build churches for senior citizens, Klein told the council.
Klein told the council that the group has operated weekly bingo games in Torrance for more than a year and a half.
"We have a fantastic, satisfied family," Klein said. The group is "very shocked and surprised" at the city's denial of a bingo license, Klein said, because "our past performance has been nothing but the best."
(Spokesmen for Torrance police and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said they had no knowledge of any pending investigation of the German Crusaders in connection with a bingo operation in Torrance.)
At present, there are no official bingo games in Bell. Under the new regulations, at least 25% of the members of an organization applying for a license to operate the games must work or live in the city. At least 25% of the proceeds from the games must be funneled back into the local community. Organizations must limit their games to two days a week, between 10 a.m. and midnight. The bingo amendments also set a maximum $250 prize in cash or kind for each bingo game.
In an interview, German Crusaders member Joseph Bischof of Huntington Beach said the game at the Alpine Village in Torrance is the group's only bingo operation.
Bischof said German Crusaders is a three-year-old Christian organization with an open membership.
"We want to do something for our heritage, like the Jews do," Bischof said. The group plans to "go into different cities" with bingo games, he said.