Ripon’s elected leaders did some housecleaning Tuesday on their bingo ordinance.
They agreed to appeal a part of the Ripon Municipal Code pertaining to gambling.
“This chapter of the code has not been amended in nearly 50 years,” said City Attorney Tom Terpstra at the Ripon City Council meeting.
Struck from the code was the ordinance put in place some years ago to set up the licensing procedure for non-profit groups to conduct card games and other games of chance as “purely social purposes.”
Prior to that, the sticking point appeared to be a 1998 ordinance on staging bingo games in city-owned facilities, which, according to Terpstra, had little to do with the Ripon Municipal Code.
All this came to light after a scheduled fundraiser involving the Friends of the Senior Center and the Ripon Rotary Club was canceled. The event was to take place in the city-owned Senior Center building, with some of the proceeds, in the case of Rotary, underwriting the $8,000 used for charitable causes.
While repealing the prohibition on groups using a public building may provide some relief, Terpstra pointed out that the real difficulty had more to do with the California Penal Code.
In particular, the part that “the organization which is authorized to conduct bingo games must conduct the games on the property owned or lease by it, or which is donated to the organization,” he said.
Mayor Leo Zuber clarified it, by saying: “If one of the (licensed) non-profit runs the bingo games it can donate the proceeds to the other non-profit – this one can’t be part of the games – as a gift.”
In this case, Friends of the Senior Center, which has a longstanding and beneficial relationship with the City of Ripon – that’s even without a formal lease – could be the qualified non-profit.
Friends conduct their meetings at the Senior Center and would be in a good position to negotiate a lease with the City while continuing to conduct its business there. By doing so, they could take the necessary steps towards getting the bingo license from the City, Terpstra said.
“Staff supports the idea of entering into a formal lease with Friends, and processing a bingo permit should they apply for one,” he added.