Charity Bingo Games Face Competition in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts thousands of loyal bingo players made the trek to local churches and charities to play their favorite game. The players attend games with the hope of shouting BINGO and taking home a jackpot or prize. Traditionally bingo nights served a worthy cause in the state and generated millions each year for charities. Bingo nights could face stiff competition from commercial bingo operations when three resorts and a slot parlor will open throughout the state by 2015. Beth Bresnahan, director of marketing and communications for the Massachusetts lottery, stated “Anytime there is a new gaming venture, or a new type of gaming entered into a marketplace, whether it be an expansion of Lottery or an introduction of casinos, there will some impact. We certainly expect one on traditional Lottery sales, and there will be some on charitable gaming.”

Charitable gambling, including bingo, generates about $75 million each year. About $18 million is retained by the charities operating the games. Both figures come from a recent report by the Massachusetts Gambling Commission. Bingo is the most popular charitable gambling game in Massachusetts and in 2011 $38.8 million was wagered. $1.6 million was retained by the charities and $30.7 million went towards prizes and operating expenses. About 200 bingo games are held annually in the state but that number has been declining in recent years. Licensed sponsors of charitable bingo and gambling games include churches, veterans groups, civic organizations and youth groups. In a lot of cases gambling generated the bulk of funding organizations donate to charities.

Possible sites for casinos include downtown Springfield, Suffolk Downs racetrack in East Boston, Taunton, Milford, Palmer and New Bedford. Possible slot parlor locations include Charlton, Plainville and Raynham. In Tewksbury the local Elks lodge has operated bingo games for years. The lodge charges $10 per card and the games attract about 160 people weekly. The money raised by the games goes towards scholarships for local students, Thanksgiving dinners for seniors and the purchase of dictionaries for elementary school students. Alan Rock, who runs the Elk’s bingo nights the fate of the Tuesday night bingo games would likely be determined by the location of the casinos. Rock stated “We may take a small hit, but I’m not sure how much of one.”

Lottery official Bresnahan says that bingo players attend games for the camaraderie they may not find in a casino. Bresnahan stated “The emotional attachment to a bingo game, or a bingo location, and knowing while you enjoy the game, you’re also helping the associated non-profit raise money, there’s a stronger emotional tie that players or people who frequent those games have.”

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