Fulton County residents who participate in organized bingo games are going to have to find another county to play bingo in, according to Fulton County Sheriff Lloyd Martz.
"Organizations and individuals who are known to operate bingo games within Fulton County have been notified by the sheriff's office that those activities are illegal," Martz said.
If those persons or organizations persist, they face legal prosecution, he said.
Martz said the Fulton County Sheriff's Department was contacted several weeks ago by an "informally organized group" which has threatened legal action against the county if bingo halls within Fulton County are not shut down.
"I think with the meth problem and other important things going on, these bingo halls have been low on my list of priorities. This group has an agenda to close the bingo halls throughout the state, and now we are involved," Martz said.
According to the Arkansas Attorney General's Office, any game or gaming procedure in which money is exchanged for the chance to win a prize and risk is involved is a violation of Arkansas state statute.
In 2002 then Attorney General Mark Pryor affirmed that state statutes prohibiting gambling extend to bingo games. He said it didn't matter if the games are non-profit or charitable in nature.
Randolph County Sheriff Brent Earley began a crackdown on bingo halls in June. Earley shut down two bingo halls in Pocahontas, one of which was operated by the Catholic church.
Martz said the group that contacted his office is attempting to gain support for a state law legalizing gambling. He said they hope to achieve this by garnering support from church goers and groups who generally oppose gambling but enjoy bingo.
The sheriff said he is reluctant to close down bingo games in Fulton County, but he has to follow the law.
Martz said according to Arkansas law, if a sheriff or deputy sheriff knowingly allows any gambling activity to take place in their jurisdiction the sheriff or deputy can be fined up to $100 and discharged from office.