Nanny State

Blind Bet

Ohio goes after bingo.


The crackdown on gambling has found a curious target: Ohio's nonprofit Written Communications Radio Service. WCRS had ridden the airwaves for 30 years, its volunteers and hosts reading from newspapers, magazines, and comic strips for the benefit of blind listeners. But the staff may close up shop as the state looks into the shady way the folks at WCRS pay the bills: bingo nights.

The station has been licensed to run bingo games since 1990. But in 2003, the new state attorney general, Jim Petro, transferred control of bingo licensing to the Ohio Lottery Commission. By the next year, the attorney general's office had opened an investigation into WCRS.

The station's three full-time staffers handed over all of its tax forms, invoices, and instant bingo receipts. The commission informed the station that the law had changed: It could still operate traditional bingo games, but was no longer permitted to sell Lotto-style "instant bingo" tickets. Deprived of its main source of money, WCRS shut down briefly in March before holding a fundraiser to pay its bills and putter along.

"We had the same bingo license for 15 years and it never was a problem," says WCRS Operational Director Dave Loyd. "I don't know what's changed except for the attorney general getting campaign donations from the Lottery Commission."