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City loosens restrictions on gambling for charity

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Cottage Grove City Council members on Wednesday approved amendments to city code that officials at CGAA Bingo hope will aid their ailing charitable gambling operation.

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CGAA gambling and bingo hall manager Mary Perren lobbied city officials earlier this autumn for a number of changes that she said would help CGAA Bingo and other charitable gambling operations in the city be more viable.

Among myriad changes, the amended city code now allows social dice games, which state law already permits, allows the use of pull-tab vending machines by charitable gambling organizations that was formerly restricted to only veterans organizations, eliminates the prohibition on allowing alcohol sales during bingo games and eliminates the restrictions on the number of locations that a single organization can conduct gambling in the city (it had been three).

"I'm very optimistic," Perren said after the amendments were OK'd last week. "But aside from it allowing us to do bar bingo it does open up other areas, too."

The elimination of the prohibition against selling alcohol on the bingo floor was a key measure Perren had been hoping for, saying it will allow CGAA Bingo to compete with increasingly popular bingo games at area bars.

And CGAA Bingo, based at the VFW Red Barn after a move from its longtime home next to Rainbow Foods, can now extend its reach in the community, selling pull-tabs at more locations to raise more money for the Cottage Grove Athletic Association.

CGAA Bingo is the athletic association's No. 1 fundraiser.

The operation has struggled since the statewide smoking ban went into effect in October 2007, Perren said, forcing the move to the VFW. And business has been slow at the new locale she said.

But, Perren says, "I'm hoping this is going to help us."

Jon Avise can be reached at javise@swcbulletin.com.

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