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Elizabeth Lodge No. 289 v. Legalized Games of Chance Control Commission

Decided: April 28, 1961.


Price, Gaulkin and Sullivan. The opinion of the court was delivered by Price, S.j.a.d.


[67 NJSuper Page 240] Appellant Elizabeth Lodge No. 289, B.P.O.E. (Lodge), pursuant to R.R. 4:88-8(a), challenges the propriety of the action of respondent Legalized Games

of Chance Control Commission (Commission), adjudging that the Lodge was guilty of violating the provisions of N.J.S.A. 5:8-25, and revoking its bingo and raffles licenses.

Specifically, the Commission determined that in conducting a licensed bingo game on February 23, 1960, the Lodge had violated N.J.S.A. 5:8-25 in that the "caller" at the game and the workers assisting him had failed "to call the balls as they were drawn from the blower, but in fact returned balls to the blower receptacle without calling them and announcing them over the loudspeaker system." The Commission further determined that the Lodge had "interfered with an Investigator of this Commission carrying out his duties assigned to him" under N.J.S.A. 5:8-6 and that "representatives" of the Lodge had "threatened the Investigator with bodily harm * * *."

Following a hearing the Commission, on April 15, 1960, ordered that "all outstanding licenses" issued to appellant "or to any Auxiliary thereof" be "revoked; said revocation to commence on May 1, 1960," and that appellant "and any Auxiliary thereof" be declared "ineligible to apply for a bingo or raffles license for a period of 18 months." We granted a stay of the Commission's order pending disposition of the present appeal.

The Lodge contends that (a) the evidence submitted did not justify the Commission's action, and (b) the revocation of appellant's "Raffles License" as well as its "Bingo License" was "illegal and erroneous and constituted an abuse of discretion."

The gist of the first charge against appellant is that on the night in question the operator, instead of drawing one of the balls, which had been discharged from the receptacle into a chute, and then calling the number on it, would occasionally lift the chute, operated on a swivel, and return the balls in the chute to the receptacle. It is significant that the record reveals no charge against appellant of fraud, dishonesty or favoritism in the conduct of the game. In fact, the brief submitted on behalf of the Commission contains

the statement that "it appears to be the custom that balls are in fact 'dumped' in this manner in the discretion of the operator in response to calls from players of 'shake them up,' occasioned by the calling of successive numbers which appear to the audience not to be at random."

A woman who had frequently attended the Lodge's bingo games complained that the criticized procedure had been followed by the Lodge on other occasions. Her complaint led to the attendance of a Commission investigator on the night in question.

At the hearing before the Commission the investigator testified that during the course of the evening he noticed instances of a course of action which he characterized as irregular. On the "fifth" time it occurred he interrupted the play, identified himself, and refused to permit the particular Lodge member, who had been taking the balls from the chute, to continue. Arguments between Lodge members and the investigator ensued, initially in the main room and later in an adjoining room. The game, meanwhile, continued with a single operator. Allegedly, opprobrious epithets were directed by Lodge members to the investigator. It was asserted by the investigator that some of the members, who had been operating the game, refused to disclose their names on his request and rejected his repeated demand that they give him a written description of their method of operation although, he said, they had, at the inception of the controversy, promised to do so. Lodge members testified that the investigator, at the discussion in the adjoining room, accused them of "finagling" the balls and, when they refused to accept that word as descriptive of the game's operation, the argument became intense and acrimonious. The investigator claimed that some of the members had curtly told him to leave, threatening to call the police if he did not do so. He finally left without obtaining any written statement.

Bingo games had been conducted by the Lodge since 1954. There were, at times, as many as 400 to 500 participants

at the weekly sessions. Description of the events on February 23, as related by the Lodge members, was in contrast with that given by the investigator. The Lodge members immediately concerned with the game's operation testified that on the night in question the argument stemmed from the fact that, when the game was stopped by the investigator, the principal operator had agreed to give the investigator a statement that occasionally he was "dumping" the balls back into the blower (a practice which appellant asserted was proper and which, as above stated, the Commission admits was common practice when members of the audience called for a recirculation of the balls), but that the investigator wanted a signed statement that "manipulation" was taking place. Such statement, they said, was refused because it implied a dishonest operation which implication, they asserted, was wholly unjustified.

The woman who, as aforesaid, instigated the instant "under cover" investigation, testified at the ...

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