On appeal from Superior Court, Law Division, Middlesex County.
Lynch, Kole and Petrella. The opinion of the court was delivered by Kole, J.A.D.
The issue involved in this appeal is the validity of a municipal ordinance restricting the issuance of bingo licenses, pursuant to the State Bingo Licensing Law, N.J.S.A. 5:8-24 et seq. (hereafter sometimes referred to as "the act"), to organizations having a legal domicile or bona fide situs within the municipality.
Plaintiff, with an office in a neighboring town but an otherwise qualified organization, was denied a bingo license by the City of New Brunswick on the basis of the following recently enacted ordinance:
e. There shall be no more than two (2) licenses issued for any one day, as the Municipal Council shall issue at the ratio of one per each 20,000 city residents as established by Federal census figures; also, the licenses shall be issued to organizations who shall have a legal domicile or bona fide situs within the City of New Brunswick, and only on application and special circumstances shown, shall the Municipal Council deviate from the afore-mentioned policy and issue licenses to organizations outside of the City of New Brunswick.
Thereafter plaintiff filed a complaint in lieu of prerogative writs challenging the ordinance and seeking to overturn the denial. The trial judge held the ordinance valid. This appeal followed.
Plaintiff contends that the ordinance is invalid. It asserts, among other grounds for invalidity, that the amended regulation is contrary to state law, since the State has preempted the field of bingo games in the area here involved. We agree.
Municipalities are granted broad police powers over matters of local concern and interest. N.J.S.A. 40:48-1 and 2. Laws are to be liberally construed in their favor. N.J. Const. (1947), Art. IV, § VII, par. 11. However, it is equally clear that a municipality may not make laws in a field which has been preempted by the Legislature. Overlook Ter. Management v. West New York Rent Control Bd. , 71 N.J. 451, 461 (1976); Summer v. Teaneck , 53 N.J. 548, 554-555 (1969).
In 1953 the State Constitution was amended to permit the playing of games of chance known as "bingo" and "raffles" in municipalities in which a majority of the voters approved of such gambling. Allendale Field and Stream Ass'n v. Legalized Games , 41 N.J. 209, 211 (1963). N.J. Const. (1947), Art. IV, § VII, par. 2, as amended in 1972, provides in pertinent part:
It shall be lawful for bona fide veterans, charitable, educational, religious or fraternal organizations, civic and service clubs, senior citizen association or clubs, volunteer fire companies and first-aid or rescue squads to conduct, under such restrictions and control as shall from time to time be prescribed by the Legislature by law , games of chance of, and restricted to, the selling of rights to participate, and the awarding of prizes, in the specific kind of game of chance sometimes known as bingo or lotto, * * * when the entire net proceeds of such games of chance are to be devoted to educational, charitable, patriotic, religious or public-spirited uses, * * * in any municipality, in which a majority of the qualified voters, voting thereon, ...