The Canadian Bingo Battle

In the US and Canada the game of bingo is usually associated with the Catholic Church and the church has used bingo for fund raising for decades. Almost every parish in Canada and the US has weekly bingo games which are usually well attended and the church has done more for the popularity of bingo than any other institution. In Canada several Orthodox denominations also sponsor bingo games. The loss of bingo games can have an adverse effect on a parish. A few years ago in Ohio a parochial school was forced to raise tuition due to the loss of the weekly bingo games that had provided funds for scholarships and allowed the school to keep tuition affordable.

In Calgary, Canada a recent bingo ban has schools and parents worried. A 2006 feud between the Calgary Catholic trustees and Bishop Fred Henry over the ‘morality’ of gambling resulted in the bingo ban. Bishop Henry threatened to blacklist schools that held bingo nights and now the bingo ban is district wide. The ban has parents justifiable worried and the district was given a list of permissible fundraising activities. The gambling debate has spread across Alberta as other districts adopt the anti gambling policies.

At St. Vincent de Paul School parents are now wondering how they are going to raise the money for much needed repairs and modifications. In the past casino and bingo nights brought in about $70,000 for each event held and now that source of income is cut off. Raising money for the schools will be more challenging causing concern. Kevin Strange, chair of the parent council and the school’s fundraising arm, the St. Vincent de Paul Educational Society stated, “This is huge. In any given school there’s a minority of parents engaged enough to participate in bake sales or casinos. It means a lot of work for parents to do coming down the pipe if they want to replace the funding.”

Parents have mixed feelings about the bingo ban. School principals have been sharing information on new fundraising techniques that have been successful. One partial solution has been the creation of a district wide educational foundation, the Calgary Catholic Education Foundation which has raised about $1.4 million from donors. In the meantime bingo fans are left without a place to play their favorite game. Many players had attended bingo and casino nights for years. Maybe these hard core players should check out internet bingo which is available everywhere, and obtain the great bingo promotions that are offered online.