Bingo Ban Costing Schools Millions

In North America, bingo and the Catholic Church have a close connection. Many Catholic Churches have operated popular bingo games for over half a century. Some churches also sponsor ‘casino nights’ which have been a highly successful fund raising tool. The funds generated by bingo and casino nights help to keep tuition at parochial schools affordable and also fund a variety of charitable programs operated by the church. In cities across the United States and Canada millions of people play well attended bingo games.

In Alberta, Canada all that may change. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Edmonton, Richard Smith, has issues a directive to all Catholic school boards under his direction that as of October 1st Catholic schools or school boards can no longer use bingo or casino nights for fund raising. The directive poses a problem for Catholic school boards across the province. The Edmonton Catholic school parent associations had booked 83 casino fundraisers for the next 18 months and had expected to raise about $6 million dollars. In Canada Catholic school boards are funded by the provinces and the ‘extra’ money raised by bingo goes towards meal programs in low income neighborhoods and school safety and security programs not funded by the provincial government.

The school boards are struggling to come up with ideas to replace the $6 million that will be lost because of the bingo and casino ban. Unfortunately, in Canada an archbishop holds the ultimate authority over parochial schools. The archbishop has left little room for compromise and stated that he is, “willing to discuss timelines with school divisions that rely on revenue from harmful gambling practices.” Way back in 1998 a pastoral letter said that gambling exploits a ” a poor, weak and vulnerable minority” and that it was ‘immoral’ for the church to exploit these people for the benefit of the schools.

For most people a night out at a church bingo game is inexpensive entertainment and like the fact that the money raised by bingo and casino nights funds good causes and worthwhile programs. If any school board continues bingo and casino nights they risk being ‘defrocked’ and it is unheard of for a Catholic school board to defy the orders of a bishop. In the mean time the school boards are scrambling to find new ways to raise money and tens of thousands of bingo players are left without a place to play their favorite game, except for playing an interent bingo game at the bingo sites.

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