Can Online Bingo Save the US Newspaper Industry?

It is widely known that the US newspaper industry is in real trouble. Many major newspapers are laying off employees at an alarming rate and many newspapers have filed for bankruptcy. One of the many reasons cited is the easy accessibility of news on the internet. Online editions of newspapers have become immensely popular and many who read their news online are canceling subscriptions to print editions. Many web based editions depend on advertising for revenue but often the revenue generated by online advertising is not enough to offset the actual cost of publishing the online edition.

Newspapers are looking for ways to survive in an online world and billionaire publisher Mort Zuckerman has an interesting suggestion. The tech savvy 72 year old suggests that newspapers should be allowed to sponsor online bingo games on their websites like many newspapers in the UK. In the UK online bingo is wildly popular and is actually one of the few growth industries in the ongoing global recession. Some UK newspapers report that online bingo is the only division of the paper that is turning a profit.

Zuckerman cited the UK based Sun as an example of a newspaper making big money from online bingo sites. It is estimated that the Sun’s online bingo site generates revenues of about £12 million (US$15USD) per year. The UK based Daily Mirror makes about £3 million ($4.5 million USD) per year. It is easy to see that there is big money to be made from online bingo and Mr. Zuckerman would like to see US newspapers able to provide online bingo games to readers.

At present there are questions of legality thanks to the ill advised Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. The law does not make online bingo illegal but prohibits financial institutions from processing ‘gambling’ related transactions. Congressman Barney Frank has introduced a bill that would effectively tax and regulate internet gambling and address the issues of underage gambling and gambling addiction.

The potential US online bingo game market is huge. It is estimated that there are millions of potential online bingo players in the US. The demographics of bingo are changing and bingo is no longer seen as a game played by little old ladies in smoky church basements. Like the UK smoking bans are putting bingo halls out of business across the US. Most of these former players have expressed a willingness to switch to online bingo if it becomes widely available and legal. Online bingo could very well save the US newspaper industry.

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