Is Charity Bingo Dying In the US ?

Several recent news reports revealed that in some areas charity bingo is in real trouble. In the United States bingo has long been associated with churches, charities and fraternal organizations. In some cases the demise of charity bingo games has had a very adverse effect on the communities affected. In Ohio one parochial school had to shut down because of dwindling bingo receipts at games. Today charity bingo games are facing pressures from several sources.

In some states Native American tribes have set up extensive gaming operations including large bingo halls with large jackpots that charity games cannot match. The tribal games have lured many players from their regular community based charity games. In Arkansas charity bingo operators say that bingo halls now face competition from casinos, the state’s lottery and a state tax on bingo cards. In 2008 bingo became legal in Arkansas and since that time state issued bingo permits have declined by 30

Gene McVay, former commander of the American Legion Post 31 in Fort Smith echoed the sentiments of many charity game operators and told reporters “I don’t know anybody who can afford (to run) bingo (operations).” McVay said his post was forced to abandon its long running bingo games because of the tax on bingo cards. In 2007 Arkansas set a $600,000 budget for a new five-person division to monitor bingo operations in the state. The division is funded by the 1 cent tax on bingo cards. Bingo operators told state lawmakers that the tax is excessive and is taking away money for charities. McVay vented his frustrations with the tax and said “That pretty much killed bingo in Arkansas, to my knowledge” and added that several other Legion posts have closed their bingo games because of the tax.

In Nebraska charity bingo is in real trouble. This year the state’s biggest charity bingo game shut down. Holy Name parish in Omaha started hosting bingo games in the 1950s. During the game’s heyday the church made about $250,000 per year from the games. Today there are not enough players to justify the expense of running the games. Operators cite expanded gambling in Nebraska for the decline. If states legalize online gaming bingo halls will face new competition from online bingo sites. Who knows, maybe some enterprising group will start their own charity online bingo games.

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