ANTIOCH -- City leaders recently put the brakes on new bingo halls -- at least for the time being.
The City Council approved an emergency 45-day moratorium on permits, construction and licensing for any new bingo operations, agreeing with staff that more time is needed to study potential safety issues.
"At this point and time, I don't think there's anything wrong with a 45-day stay so we can get an education on this," Councilman Tony Tiscareno said.
Antioch has received a pair of inquiries about establishing bingo halls that operate regularly -- which "differs dramatically" from the existing games in the city put on by groups such as the VFW and the Antioch Senior Citizens Club, planner Mindy Gentry said.
Tiscareno and Mayor Pro Tem Mary Rocha said at Tuesday's meeting that the bingo hall proposal by Oakland-based It Takes A Village Development Center sounded more like a casino.
It Takes A Village has applied to open a 324-player site off East 18th Street, next to Xtreme Fitness, that would be open four days a week. It would have up to five armed security guards and 22 surveillance cameras.
"That concerns me right now at this point," Tiscareno said. "Please convince me differently. I'm giving you that opportunity."
It Takes a Village Executive Director Barbara Davis said Friday proceeds from the games would help Antioch, as it has some charities in Oakland.
"What I would like to see happen is we are able to meet with the council and Police Department and show them how we operate from A to B. Let's take this apart and look at it together," she said.
"We can help supplement where moneys have been cut back for local and state governments," said Al Davis, a project consultant who is not related to Barbara Davis.
The nonprofit selected Antioch because one of its board members lives in the city and thought the proceeds could help increase activities for youths, Barbara Davis said.
The other application was submitted by Antioch resident Tricia Simmons on behalf of nonprofit Patriotic Hearts to run a seven-day-a-week bingo hall on Buchanan Road.
Antioch's bingo ordinance was adopted in 1980 and does not strictly comply with some state rules set in 2008 for "remote caller" bingo, a game that can use audio or video to link to other facilities. It Takes a Village uses live callers, and handheld battery devices are used to play the games, Davis said.
The approved moratorium is not focused on the "occasional" games currently in Antioch, Gentry said.
Antioch staff also raised concerns that the bingo halls could attract criminal activity similar to what has happened with other gambling establishments such as card rooms and Internet cafes in the city over the past few years, further straining the understaffed Police Department, unless possible regulations are studied.
"Once we open that door, it's hard to shut," police Capt. Leonard Orman told the council.
In a memo cited by Antioch staff, Pleasant Hill police raised similar red flags about assaults and thefts when a bingo hall looked to move from Concord in 2012.
During the moratorium, city staff will look at whether bingo operations should be permitted anywhere in Antioch, possible parking and security requirements, licensing fees and other potential city costs, and whether police licensing similar to card rooms is necessary.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.