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Rules have changed, but Porketta Bingo allowed to return to Sudbury area bars

BY TRACEY DUGUAY It turns out the residents of Greater Sudbury wonÂ?t be deprived of the game of Porketta Â? or more commonly known and loved as Porketta Bingo Â? after all. WellÂ?sort of, at least.

It turns out the residents of Greater Sudbury wonÂ?t be deprived of the game of Porketta Â? or more commonly known and loved as Porketta Bingo Â? after all.

WellÂ?sort of, at least.

Last Friday, the Copper Cliff Minor Hockey League successfully obtained a lottery license from the City of Greater Sudbury to hold a Â?Meat SpinÂ? at the Beef Â?N Bird Tavern on Lorne Street.

The $156 licence is good for 13 Saturday afternoon games, held between the hours of 2:30 to 5 pm. The first Â?Meat SpinÂ? was held this past weekend.

Â?WhatÂ?s going to happen is weÂ?ll try this out and if it doesnÂ?t fly, then we wonÂ?t have Porketta anymore,Â? says hockey league representative Ron Didone.

The hockey league had previously applied for a license in December after being approached by Anthony Toppazzini, the owner of the Beef Â?N Bird. ToppazziniÂ?s family had hosted Porketta Bingo at their West End bar for over 20 years before finding out the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), which policies gaming and liquor licenses, considered the game illegal.

To avoid any potential problems, Toppazzini asked the hockey league to apply for a lottery license with the understanding any funds raised from the game, usually around $150 to $200 each Saturday, would be given to the sports organization.

The license was initially granted by the city, but quickly recalled by the AGCO because of concerns regarding a possible violation of the Liquor License Act and because Porketta Bingo isnÂ?t one of the type of games licensed by the commission.

The AGCO promised to work with its local office and the city to find a quick solution that would work out Â?to everybodyÂ?s satisfaction.Â?

After concerns about possible liquor license violations were dismissed, a compromise was reached and the game was back this past weekend.

Or is it?

Although itÂ?s now legal to play Porketta Bingo, now officially known as a Meat Spin, the game isnÂ?t the same one thatÂ?s been played for years throughout the community.

ItÂ?s now done using a Â?spinning wheelÂ? format, not by using playing cards.
In order to obtain a lottery license, the game must comply with the formats established and regulated by the AGCO. Playing cards are not permitted unless used at a formal gaming event and only in a blackjack format.

According to Greater Sudbury deputy clerk Angie Hache, the new game of Meat Spin works by players selecting a number on a wheel. For the $2 fee, each player gets six games per round. The wheel must go around twice before landing on a number. If the wheel stops on a playerÂ?s number, the person wins one pound of porketta.

Players keep the same number for all six games or Â?spins,Â? regardless if they already won. There are seven rounds of play allowed per day.

As well, she adds, a representative of the charitable organization that obtained the lottery license must be present during every game and accountable for the funds raised.

The big questions remaining are whether the longstanding fans, those who play Porketta Bingo religiously, will accept the new format or whether the bars and restaurants that used to offer it will even bother now since it means complying to plenty of Â?red tape.Â?

Ron Rinaldi, who used to go the Beef Â?N Bird regularly on SaturdayÂ?s for Porketta Bingo, didnÂ?t know the bar was offering the game again this weekend so he didnÂ?t go.
However, when the new format of the game was explained to him, his first response was to scoff and say, Â?thatÂ?s not Porketta.Â?

Grant Kay, owner of Pickles Bar and Grill, stopped offering Porketta Bingo a while back when he was told it was illegal.

He doesnÂ?t think heÂ?ll bring in the new format because many of the older Italians who made up a good part of his Porketta business are Â?resistant to changeÂ? and may not take to the new game.

Â?Why do we even have to make a change,Â? he still questions, especially given the game was played for so many years without any problems or complaints.

Trevi Tavern owner Mert Dickie says he heÂ?s through with Porketta as well. Last weekend was the first weekend in a long time regular patrons didnÂ?t get to play the popular pastime at TreviÂ?s.

Â?I was told the liquor inspector would be here on Saturday,Â? Dickie says.

He was still offering the game in its original format, but decided it wasnÂ?t worth risking his business so he shut it down.

Â?IÂ?m probably not going to bother (offering Porketta) because itÂ?s not a big money maker anyways.Â?

Considering the length of time Porketta Bingo has been played in the city, he thinks the whole issue is Â?just stupidÂ?.

When it comes down to it, itÂ?s just a bunch of people trying to kill some time and have some fun at a local bar on a cold Saturday afternoon, he said.