Bingo and Charities-A Long Term Partnership

For many organizations bingo has been the primary fund raising method. Charity bingo is very common in the United States, the UK and some regions of Europe. Charity bingo games have taken place since the late 1930’s. 75 ball bingo was introduced to the American public in 1929 by New York toy salesman Edwin S. Lowe. A decade later Denver Pastor Charles H. Hagus, head of The Annunciation, a small catholic church in Denver, realized that bingo could be used for raising money for the parish. Hagus wanted to raise money to rebuild the dilapidated old building the parish was forced to offer church school services from. Even worse Pastor Hagus had to hold Catholic education classes in an abandoned schoolhouse that he rented for $50 dollars a month.

After years of parish funding problems Hagus approached the modern game’s creator Lowe and asked permission to use the game to raise money for his parish. At the time Lowe manufactured and marketed bingo games and had built up a large business based on bingo. Lowe agreed and Hagus started running bingo games with great success. Hagus raised enough money to refurbish the old schoolhouse and also purchased the Greek Orthodox Church where the bingo games were held.  Bingo night became a weekly affair in Hagus’s parish and around 1950 other churches and charities discovered the fund raising abilities of bingo.

Because of the game’s popularity at churches many people came to associate bingo with the Catholic Church. Charities adopted the game and during the postwar years bingo was popular with veteran’s organizations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion. After World War Two the ranks of veteran’s organizations grew as returning veterans joined en masse. Today most people still associate bingo with churches and charities.

Charity bingo games are like any other bingo game. The main difference is that a percentage of ticket sales are donated to the charitable organization instead of becoming part of the jackpot pool. For example if 100 players paid $5 to play and the charity took 50% the prize pool would be $250 instead of the usual $500. Many celebrities appear at charity bingo games to give the games a little star power. IN the US the lead singer of the Dixie Chicks, Natalie Maines, has appeared at several charity bingo events. Other bingo celebrities include Natalie Maines.

Online bingo sites have hosted charity games. A few years ago US President Obama’s stepmother Kezia Obama hosted a series of highly successful online bingo games to raise money for an organization that provides services to those suffering from cancer.  Bingo continues to be a highly effective fundraising tool for charitable organizations around the world.

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