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Woman, 70, Asks N.M. Attorney General to Let Her Play Bingo

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on December 05, 2014 2:13 PM

A senior New Mexico woman is fighting to get back to playing bingo in her local bingo hall, even attempting to enlist the help of New Mexico's attorney general.

Evangeline Shelland, 70, was barred from playing bingo at the Fraternal Order of Eagles club in Alamogordo, New Mexico, nearly two years ago. According to Albuquerque's KRQE-TV, Shelland has spent most of that time fighting tooth and nail to play at the venue she's attended since 1985.

What is legally keeping Shelland from her passion for bingo?

Right to Refuse Old Ladies

The Fraternal Order of Eagles is a private club similar to the Elks or Masons, and not a frat house for anthropomorphic eagles as some of you may have hoped. It's also been declared off-limits for Shelland after management alleged that she was "driving erratically in the parking lot," reports KRQE. Shelland denies the accusation, but what she can't deny is a business' right to refuse service -- even to old ladies.

Private businesses have the right to refuse service to just about anyone as long as it isn't based on illegal discrimination. New Mexico's public accommodation laws prevent discriminating against patrons on the basis of sex, race, disability, and even marital status, but there's no separate category for "erratic drivers."

And though the Eagles allow women in their membership, if they decided against it, their status as a bona fide private club may allow them to do so.

There's No AG in BINGO

Frustrated with her ouster from the hallowed halls of Eagle bingo, Shelland wrote to the New Mexico Attorney General's office for legal help. According to KRQE, a representative from the AG's office wrote back, saying that they lacked jurisdiction over the issue and were "unable to force [the Eagles] to allow you on their premises."

Attorneys general are tasked with enforcing the laws of their states and in many cases prosecuting suits against persons and companies who break those laws. New Mexico's Attorney General and dozens of others recently settled a case with SiriusXM over complaints of unfair billing practices. So the attorney general does take consumer complaints, but this bingo issue is more of a personal beef than a legal issue.

For the moment, that leaves Shelland a woman without a bingo hall.

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