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By Tony Proffitt Bingo was his name, sir . Austin There is almost a sense of relief in reporting that it will still be unlawful for the Legislature to sanction gambling, specifically bingo. Before the Legislature adjourned, it appeared that lawmakers were going to let the voters amend the venerable Texas constitution to allow churches, charitable organizations, and maybe even American Legion posts to conduct legal bingo games and raffles. But House members couldn’t muster the hundred votes necessary to put a constitutional amendment on the November, 1978, general election ballot, and Sen. Frank Lombardino’s senate fifty hours or so before everybody went home. The hopes of bingo players died with the resolution. Menace of government Proponents said current laws made criminals of nuns, priests and assorted do-gooders who were just trying to raise a little cash on bingo to help the downtrodden. Opponents of the resolution called bingo a social evil: gambling is gambling; it’s a perversion. Legal bingo, they argued, would signal the Mafia that Texas was ripe for organized crime in the form of mob-controlled raffles and the like. Lombardino’s legislation failed because of the menace of organized crime. No one mentioned the menace of organized government. Had the amendment been put on the ballot and approved, it would have given future legislators the opportunity to add layers of additional personnel, procedures and organizational units to state government. It would have meant, among other things, a new bureaucratic state agency to regulate bingo. have given the governor at least three new high-paying jobs for friends who’d be appointed to the agency’s policymaking Bingo Board. Sooner or later BOB would have needed a State Bingo Building and probably an adjacent parking garage to handle a swelling work force. In the meantime, BOB’s Uniform Licensing Office for Standards and Enset up rules and regulations for legal bingothe government couldn’t let the game be played in its current casual and haphazard fashion. The first administrative fight at BOB would have been over card size standards, with battlelines drawn between bingo game operators favoring small cards to give bingo buffs multiple plays in the smallest possible seating area, and senior citizens pushing for large cards with easy-to-read numbers. It’s possible that we would have seen he Texas Farm Bureau and Exxon square off on the issue of counters. Agricultural interests and environmentalists could have been expected to support natural counters \(beans, corn, cotton, big chemical companies, of course, would have plumped for synthetic countersplastic and rubber products. The chambers of commerce probably would have sided with Exxon in hopes that a new bingo counter industry in Texas cities would ease economic woes. Hygiene standards Early on, the state would have wanted to license bingo callers. A test to weed out the mumble-mouths and establish decibel levels would have been devised. It probably wouldn’t have been as tough as the Bar exam, but at least a notch above the one for aspiring morticians. Health and hygiene standards for bingo parlors would also have had to be enacted. Some think a “free substitution” rule would have gone on the books early as a consumer measure for players who might be in the bathroom during a call. Faced with such complicated issues as late-night playing permits \(similar to few and “last call” rules, and minimum ages for juveniles, the Bureau of Bingo could have become as large as the Texas Education Agency or the Department of Public Safety. The bingo lobby Hundreds of inspectors would have been needed to spot-check bingo parlors and protect against fraud. Clerks, secretaries and technicians would have joined the state payroll to handle the.. mountains of paperwork legalized bingo would create. It’s remotely possible that the University of Texas law school would have dropped oil and gas law courses in favor of classes in bingo law. A powerful bingo lobby would have developed, lurking in the darker shadows of the Capitol each legislative session to press for “favorable” bingo legislation. And, sooner or later, the Great Texas Bingo Scandal would have taken its place in the state’s political history alongside the Sharpstown bank, the veteran’s land, and the slant-hole oil scandals. With reform in the wind, some future legislature would have banned bingo. This nightmare will never happen. The 65th Legislature has slain the bingo dragon. Tony Proffitt is a freelance writer living in Austin.