Ocala Bingo Hall Ordered To Close Again
OCALA - Its number is up. A bingo hall in North Central Florida has been told to desist. The hall which was run by a charity in Ocala called, Unity Place must close-- again. They are accused of violating local ordinances.
Right here on State Road 200 is where people in Marion County could gather for some bingo. More than a place to hang out; the revenue made here benefited the non-profit Unity Place-- but that won't be the case anymore.
As you can see the name has come down. What it used to say was—bingo, bingo, bingo. "I mean it's popular and the older community gets something to do… there's not much to do in Ocala," said Shannon Rieger the owner of A1 Painting in Ocala and a resident who visits the plaza often.
Bingo is considered gambling in Florida. However there is an exception to those games if they are conducted for the benefit of a charitable organization. And that's what Unity Place a non-profit that provides housing for recovering drug addicts and alcoholics, was doing.
"I think anything helping the society and drug addicts and getting people off the streets as far as drugs and trying to help the community is a good thing," Rieger said.
Marion County attorney, Guy Minter says commissioners voted to revoke Unity Place's bingo license because non-members were operating the games. Members of the non-profit organization must operate the games to make sure that the proceeds actually end up in the hands of the charity.
The decision to shut down doesn't sit well with resident Ed Bagley. "My mother was an avid bingo player and I think it kept her alive till the old age of 84," said Bagley.
Larry Breech the CEO of Unity Place and owner of the bingo location declined an interview on camera but tells us he appealed the commissioner's decision to revoke his license back in February.
During the appeal process they were allowed to remain open. But on Monday Circuit Judge Steven Rogers rejected the appeal, revoking their license for one year. Breech told us over the phone he won't appeal the court ruling but hopes to bring his group into compliance by creating a membership system and perhaps getting the revocation lifted early.
Something Bagley is looking forward to. "She played every night of the week, she had something to do every night of the week and a lot of her older friends played every night of the week. I think shutting down bingo halls takes more away from the older generation than anything else in this world," Bagley said.
The CEO for Unity Place will continue providing services despite the loss of the bingo hall.
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