BIDDEFORD, Maine — Weeks of disappointment for members of the Biddeford Fifty Plus Club have come to an end.
The Maine State Police Special Investigations Unit reversed its decision regarding the interpretation of a state statute, and this week, club members will resume their Wednesday afternoon bingo games for cash prizes.
On Thursday, members of the special investigations unit came in person to deliver the good news to Fifty Plus Club members at their club room at the J. Richard Martin Community Center.
The club is “absolutely good to go,” said Lt. Scott Ireland of the Maine State Police Special Investigations Unit and added, “Game on.”
Club members have been disheartened since their bingo games came to an end on Sept. 19.
That’s when a member of the Maine State Police Special Investigations Unit, who had learned of the games through an anonymous complaint, told the club coordinator that members could no longer play bingo for cash prizes without a license.
But because the Fifty Plus Club is affiliated with the city — it’s under the umbrella of the Recreation Department — it was unlikely the group would be eligible for a license.
Members said the inability to play the games was a major loss, not only because bingo is a fun activity, but also because it gave them a reason to get out of the house, to meet and come together.
Fifty Plus Club director Deborah Lizotte, who is in charge of organizing club activities, said she would structure health and wellness talks and clinics and other activities around the games, since they attracted an average of 75 members each week.
However, since the games stopped, the club room has been very empty on Wednesdays, she said.
The ruling was reversed after a request from recreation director Carl Walsh to the state police that the matter be investigated.
This prompted the attorney general’s office and the Maine State Police Special Investigations Unit to research the issue.
They discovered that it appeared the original intent of the statute was that organizations couldn’t profit from bingo games but individuals could, said Ireland.
“I was pleased at how quickly they responded,” said Mayor Alan Casavant, who had lent his support to resolving the issue so the club members could resume their games.
Officers and trustees of the club gathered at their meeting room to hear the news in person.
“It’s marvelous,” said club president Frank Defrancesco who was handed the official state letter that allows the games to resume.
“It’s going to be really great for the seniors. It’s a thing they really love every week,” he said. “It brings everyone together.”
Defrancesco added, “It was very nice of them [the police investigators] to come down and present [the letter] to us.”
“This is a great resolution,” said Recreation Director Carl Walsh. “It will bring people back in on Wednesdays. They’ll enjoy their games and all their other activities.”
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