Riverdale bingo parlor claims gambling statute is unconstitutional

Published: Friday, June 4 2010 1:20 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — The owner of two Utah bingo parlors is suing the state of Utah, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and the city of Riverdale, claiming the state's gambling statute is unconstitutionally vague.

With a new section added to the gambling statute this year, Riverdale police went to investigate Frankie's bingo parlor, 4150 S. 900 West, to see if the business was in violation of the law's section on fringe gambling, said Riverdale City Attorney Stevin Brooks.

Blue Sky Entertainment, which owns both Frankie's and the Southgate Social Club in Millcreek, is also seeking declaratory judgment regarding the constitutionality and interpretation of the gambling statute's new section, according to the lawsuit filed Wednesday in the 3rd District Court.

Both Frankie's and Southgate offer a sweepstakes program called Magic Ball. The sweepstakes entries are given free during the sale of lunches and dinners for promotional purposes, according to the lawsuit. The sweepstakes program is a bingo-like game in which players are given a bingo card and a pre-selected set of numbers. To win, players must match the pre-selected numbers to the numbers on the card for a necessary pattern.

Riverdale police began investigating Frankie's on April 28. Officers interviewed staff and customers and participated in a game known as a sweepstakes, the lawsuit states. Police notified the owner of Blue Sky on April 29 and again on May 11 that they believed the bingo parlor was in violation of the gambling statute on the basis that its sweepstakes promotion constitutes fringe gambling.

"We certainly looked at the parlor and reviewed the situation over there," Brooks said. "The section was intended to pick up on these places in the gray area between gambling and non-gambling, such as bingo, air-time, phone cards, to see if they were gambling or just a free game of bingo."

The updated statute says "any gambling lottery or video gaming device … given, conducted or offered for use or sale by a business in exchange for anything of value" is illegal. The new section also says illegal fringe gambling could include a gaming device given away with the purchase of other goods or services.

Riverdale police would not comment on its investigation, but Brooks said no charges have been filed against the bingo parlor.

Frank Diana, owner of Blue Sky, was unavailable for comment. His attorney did not return a phone call. Attorney general spokesman Scott Troxel said his office planned to "review the case and go from there."

e-mail: lgroves@desnews.com

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