The Great Bingo Bust of ’04

Posted: May 30th, 2004 by Militant Libertarian

This is an excerpt from today’s Salt Lake Tribune. I found it quite funny.

Point/Counterpoint: We can feel a lot safer after the ‘Great Bingo Bust’

Tom Barberi and Laurie Wilson


Laurie, my lifelong mission to “Legalize Adulthood in Utah” was showing signs of progress, but recent events have underscored what a monumental task it is. We all know that Utah is the only state in the continental United States that outlaws all gambling.

What most people don’t know is how Utah defines gambling. This was brought to light in what will go down in the annals of crime as the “Great Bingo Bust of ’04.” West Valley City police struck after months of harrowing undercover work and busted Annie’s Dinner & Bingo. I have always marveled how courageous G-men would disregard their own safety to go under cover to catch criminals in their lair. What struck me as a bit odd is why you have to use highly trained undercover agents to locate and infiltrate a large-scale bingo operation when there was a big sign out front saying, “Annie’s Dinner & BINGO”?

I talked with Greg Skordas, the attorney for Annie’s, and he described how the operation went down. WVCPD, in coordination with SWAT teams, raided Annie’s with guns drawn, jumping over tables and scaring the dentures out of players who were trying to escape on their walkers, wheelchairs and corrective shoes. The quote of the day belongs to Assistant Police Chief Craig Gibson, who said the operation was “bigger than we first thought.” It makes you wonder just what all those months of undercover work consisted of.

Utah’s gambling law is rather simple, which comes as no surprise because you would have to have been simple-minded to come up with such a law in the first place. According to Assistant Attorney General Thom Roberts, any form of gambling is illegal in Utah if it contains all of the three following elements:

* 1. People pay to play.

* 2. The game has an element of luck.

* 3. Winners obtain something of value (cash or prizes). This includes charity raffles, lotteries, sports pools for the World Series, Super Bowl, NBA or NCAA tournaments, ice dancing, synchronized swimming, bean bag toss, etc.

Using the state’s definition, it should be illegal to play the stock market. Riding TRAX or driving on I-15 should be illegal because you pay to play (ride), there is an element of luck (that you get where you’re going) and you obtain something of value (your neck if you arrive safely). If the Attorney General’s office or Salt Lake County District Attorney David Yokom were consistent, they would bust every charity event, peek into neighborhood windows to see if playing cards are flying and send undercover squads to every business that has some promotional gimmick.

Laurie, I am not suggesting that Wendover Will set up shop next door to the Naked Goat Saloon, but I would like to see some common sense on this issue. With the Legislature populated with self-righteous dimwits like Sen. Curt Bramble-R (Reactionary) Provo, I shudder to think what they might come up with. Bramble was the prime sponsor of the anti-abortion “message” law that has already victimized one unsuspecting family in Roy. There is plenty of blame to go around for all lawmakers who voted for it as well as Gov. Olene Walker for allowing it to become law. They say there are two things you don’t want to watch being made: sausage and laws. There is something worse — legislators practicing medicine.



Tom Barberi is a talk-show host.

I left out Ms. Wilson’s comments because, well, they sucked.


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