Good Question: Did bingo halls ever get rules for opening?

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC)—This Good Question is about a game. Bingo.

News10NBC’s Brennan Somers thought this would be straightforward and something pretty quick to answer. That wasn’t really the case.

On one side, there are people who love bingo and host games around town telling Somers they’re frustrated and want to know when they can reopen. On the other hand, Somers has state officials telling him there’s no issue, they’ve been able to run bingo games for months.

What’s the deal?

Check out some of the messages Somers got over the past week: Why is everything else opening in our area except bingo? Restaurants, bars, weddings & churches are opening.? Why are none of the bingo halls allowed to open? No guidelines have been given and no green light to open at all. but all the casinos are open?

Every local bingo organizer Somers spoke with told him they kept getting a wait-and-see response from staff at the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce.

The people at the chamber told Somers "There has been a great deal of confusion" but they are simply acting as the messenger. So Somers took another step to try to get the answer. He got a hold of the New York Gaming Commission and Empire State Development.

Here’s the good news: Both tell Somers bingo halls do have the green light to open, they have guidelines that have actually been in place for months.

An ESD spokesperson sent Somers this response:

"Bingo can take place using the State’s gaming facility guidance. Gatherings must be limited to 100 people indoors or 200 people outdoors, unless attendees present proof of recent negative test result or completed immunization, in which case the gathering can increase to 150 indoors or 500 outdoors — within the capacity percentages that apply to their specific venue (based on maximum occupancy)."

By the way, there’s another gaming group in a slightly similar situation, we’re talking about OTB’s for off-track betting. The governor and his legal team were asked about those places this week.

Legal counsel to the governor, Beth Garvey: "Off-track-betting offices were never specifically closed. certainly, to the extent that we had limited racing occurring, I think there was very little for individuals to place wagers on at the height of the pandemic, but we will circle back with the department on any specific guidance that they should be following.

Governor Cuomo: Oh that’s interesting. We didn’t close the OTB, it’s that racing closed?

Garvey: Correct, I believe they voluntarily discontinued.

Cuomo: Huh, good point.


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