Washington Cardrooms and Bingo Act, Referendum 34 (1964)

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A Washington Cardrooms and Bingo Act, Referendum 34 was on the November 3, 1964 ballot in the State of Washington as a veto referendum, where it succeeded in overturning an act of the Washington State Legislature. The legislative act that was overturned would have considerably relaxed laws against gambling. It was sometimes called the Gambling Tolerance Bill and would have authorized the operation of pinball machines, punch boards, pull tabs, bingo and card rooms.[1]

Election results

Referendum 34
Defeatedd No622,98755.20%
Yes 505,633 44.80%

A "yes" vote for a veto referendum is a vote in favor of the legislative act that those who collected signatures to force onto the ballot are hoping to overturn. A "no" vote is a vote against the legislative act that provoked the veto referendum.

In this case, Chapter 37, Laws of 1963, pertaining to mechanical devices, salesboards, cardrooms and bingo did not become law.

Epic saga

Lawsuit against emergency clause

Signatures stolen

J&M Cafe and Cardroom
  • Between June 3-June 12, 1963, Humiston filed 82,995 signatures with the Washington Secretary of State.
  • On June 24, 1963 it was announced that the signatures had been stolen from the Washington Secretary of State's office.
  • On June 26,1963 Secretary of State Victor A. Meyers notified county election officials to put Referendum 34 on the November 3, 1964 state general election ballot. He believed that all things considered, it was likely that had the signatures not been stolen, a check of the signatures would have found that sufficient valid signatures were filed. 48,630 signatures were needed and 82,995 signatures had been filed.
  • According to newspaper accounts, the "mystery of who stole the signatures was never solved" although the suggestion was made by a leading daily newspaper in Spokane that the theft of the signatures was "a tipoff to the type of element waiting behind the scenes for the gambling gravy train to come in on November 3."[4]

Lawsuit against ballot access

  • On July 22, 1963 the Amusement Association of Washington filed a lawsuit against the Secretary of State challenging his decision to order the measure onto the ballot.
  • A judge in the Thurston County Superior court ruled in favor of the Secretary of State.
  • The Amusement Association of Washington appealed that decision to the Washington Supreme Court.
  • On March 26, 1964, the state supreme court upheld the lower court's decision in a 8-1 vote.[5]
  • Referendum 34 was submitted to the voters at the state general election held on November 3, 1964, where voters overturned the law.

Chapter 37

The law that was contested was "AN ACT Relating to the maintenance and operation of certain machines or mechanical devices, salesboards, bingo equipment and cardrooms in certain governmental subdivisions; adding new sections to chapter 249, Laws of 1909 and chapter 9.47 RCW; and declaring an emergency.

The act, as passed by the legislature, added nine new sections to the existing law. Four sections provided that ". . . it shall be lawful . . . " (1) to possess ". . . any machine or mechanical device which is not manufactured or equipped with an automatic payoff mechanism" (Section 1); (2) to possess " . . . any salesboard or sales ticket intended for trade stimulation purposes where merchandise only is dispensed" (Section 3); (3) to operate a ". . . public cardroom not to exceed eight tables wherein persons engage in games of skill . . ." (Section 4); (4) to possess and operate paraphernalia ". . . for use in the game of bingo . . ." provided the game is conducted for the benefit of certain enumerated nonprofit charitable organizations and ". . . the proceeds thereof are not to inure to the profit of any individual. . . ." (Section 5)

The practices and devices designated as lawful can only be employed and used if ". . . located in any incorporated city or town, or all that portion of any county not included within the limits of incorporated cities and towns where the same is licensed or taxed." (Italics ours.) (Section 3)

Section 2 of the act makes it unlawful for the user of any mechanical device, described as lawful in section 1, to receive anything of value except ". . . free plays and the playing of additional games . . ."

Section 6 sets forth certain licensing criteria; section 7 is a licensing "grandfather clause"; section 8 is a severability clause.

The act contained an emergency clause, which said, "This act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health and safety, the support of the state government, and its existing public institutions, and shall take effect immediately."[6]

Text on the Ballot

An Act Relating to licensing by cities, towns and counties of (1) machines or mechanical devices, without automatic payoff mechanisms but permitting the registering and manual transfer of free games; (2) salesboards or sales tickets intended for trade stimulation purposes where merchandise only is despensed; (3) certain public cardroom wherein persons engage in games of skill; and providing for filing license applications and prohibiting issuance of licenses unless certain citizenship and residence requirements are satisfied; and authorizing bingo and devices commonly used as trade stimulants at county or state fairs where conducted by and for nonprofit organizations unless prohibited by local authorities.

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