SB 1369 - a highly controversial and much debated piece of California legislation that will allow charitable organisations such as the Catholic Church to run and collect revenue through "remote caller bingo" and televised games linked electronically to hundreds of locations offering six-figure prizes, has reportedly been signed off by Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger.
Critics of the legislation claim it will also permit Californian tribal casinos to expand their gambling operations onto the Internet, creating the greatest expansion of legal gambling in California's history. This competition would in turn severely weaken the viability of the California Lottery as a potential revenue source.
The basis for this argument is that Remote Caller Bingo through Internet technology could trigger a little-known clause buried inside the Indian gaming compact, interpreted as allowing casinos operating under the compact to use the Internet for gambling if that technology is opened up to anyone else in California.
If charities can offer bingo online, therefore, the tribal operations may do the same. And because bingo is a game authorised by the state lottery, theoretically tribes could exercise a right to do that, too.
SB 1369 outlaws the electronic charity bingo machines that hundreds of small charities throughout the state rely on for funding. In its place, it creates an alternative process called "Remote Caller Bingo," a technology that links simultaneous Bingo games at multiple locations throughout the state.
While organisers of Remote Caller Bingo will be able to offer larger jackpots, the technology will be largely unavailable to small charities and its practicality and profitability is questionable even for larger charities, opponents claim.
Earlier this year the respected legal academic Professor I. Nelson Rose, was quoted as opining that SB 1369 could "lead to the greatest expansion of legal gambling in history."
The bill also outlaws electronic bingo machines outside of Indian reservations, thus preserving the tribes' monopoly on slot machines.