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Smoking at Bingo? Operator Is Told It's the D.A.'s Call


The City Council on Tuesday gave a bingo parlor operator the responsibility of finding out whether a statewide smoking law applies to his Beach Boulevard facility.

Richard Oliverio has complained that laws that prohibit smoking in places of employment had chased away serious bingo players who like to puff while they play. The players now go to the Indian casinos, which are exempt from the law, or other parlors that ignore it, Oliverio said.

Oliverio runs the bingo games to fund a nonprofit percussion group called the Kingsmen.

The law should not apply to the Kingsmen bingo games because no paid employees work there, he said. A Sacramento Superior Court ruled that several Sacramento County nonprofit groups could allow smoking because they had volunteers and independent contractors--not paid employees--staffing their games.

The Kingsmen games are run by volunteers and Oliverio, who contends he is an independent contractor.

Because of decreased profits, Oliverio has said he cannot fulfill a promise made last October to donate $1,000 per week to Stanton charities in exchange for City Council approval to add a fourth night of bingo each week.

Seeking to secure the promised proceeds, the city agreed to begin investigating whether the smoking law should apply to Kingsmen bingo games.

City Atty. Greg Diaz said an investigation confirmed that Oliverio should qualify as an independent contractor. However, the ultimate decision about whether the Kingsmen can allow smoking lies with the district attorney, he said.

The council members agreed that Oliverio must write a letter to the district attorney explaining his position and let them know of the decision. If Oliverio cannot fulfill his promise to donate money to Stanton charities, they may decide to withdraw their approval of the fourth night of bingo, Councilman William C. Estrada said.

Judy Silber can be reached at (714) 966-5988.

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