Navy bingo put on ice by Pearl’s new leader

There is no legalized gambling in Hawai’i. So how does the navy get away with “bingo”?  The Honolulu Star Advertiser reports that the new commander of Pearl Harbor suspended the games to review the situation:

The commander of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam has suspended the Games Night program at Hickam’s Tradewinds Enlisted Club and Officers Club. Bingo players filled the tables earlier this month at JR Rockers at Hickam.

The Navy abruptly suspended its long-running but controversial bingo games Wednesday, saying it is conducting a “management review” of the games, which can cost players as much as hundreds to play and yield thousands to winners.

Navy Capt. Jeffrey W. James, who took over command of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in June, made the decision, officials said.

“The Joint Base commander has temporarily suspended the Games Night program at both the Hickam enlisted club and the officers club to conduct a review and ensure our program remains consistent with regulation and policy,” Navy Region Hawaii said in an emailed statement. “We are committed to respecting Hawaii state law and maintaining the highest ethical standards, including avoidance of even the appearance of impropriety.”

There is “no investigation being conducted,” the Navy added. “This is just a management review of the program.”


The offering also has been controversial. State Rep. Angus McKelvey, a Maui Democrat, recently pointed to military base bingo as an example of how legalized gambling can and does work in Hawaii.

Both the Army and Navy recently said what they offer is not gambling.

“Navy (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) does not sponsor gambling, but does operate bingo in the form of social gaming, in full compliance with Hawaii law. Participants do not pay a fee for game play,” the Navy said in August.

However, players usually buy a buffet dinner for about $21 to get game sheets and then spend up to hundreds more for additional paper sheets or electronic game cards that are loaded and played on portable machines.

The Navy said the players obtained the extra cards through snack purchases.

Military concern over the legality of bingo led to a meeting in 2000 of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Honolulu Police Department, city Prosecutor’s Office and military judge advocates — and to the continuance of military bingo.

The Navy said, “It’s unknown at this time when the games will return.”


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