Smoking Bans and Bingo -A Bad Mix

Smoking bans have not been good for the land based bingo industry. When the UK implemented a national smoking ban in 2007 bingo halls throughout the country reported a dramatic decline in the number of players attending games. A survey taken at the time showed that about 63% of all live bingo players were smokers and most said they would stop attending games at live bingo halls. At the same time the ban was a boon for the internet bingo industry. During the two years following the ban many internet bingo sites reported an 80% increase in the number of players. In the United States smoking bans in many states have hurt local bingo halls.

In the US charities have long used bingo games as a fundraising tool and smoking bans have hit these charities hard. In Bowling Green Kentucky the atmosphere may be clearer at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1298 but the number of players has dwindled. One week after the veteran’s organization voted to go smoke-free for nights when charity bingo events are held attendance at the games, which help to support the post, has dropped. VFW post quartermaster Malcolm Cherry said the post is now holding twice weekly bingo games in an attempt to bring in more money. In the past the post held weekly bingo games. Cherry stated “I don’t know at this point by averaging the two nights together if we’re at about the same amount of income as we used to be.”

The VFW and American Legion Post 23 had engaged in a months long legal battle with the city over the ordinance banning smoking in buildings open to the public. Both veterans’ organizations argued that the ordinance should not apply to their facilities because they are private organizations that catered to members and their guests. Cherry said in court that the ban had a harmful effect for both veterans’ organizations and drove down attendance at charitable gaming events resulting in a drop in revenues for both organizations. Bowling Green police had issued several citations at the Legion and VFW posts. Last month Warren District Court Judge Brent Potter dismissed one of the citations at the Legion post and led to an agreement between the city and the post that the city would stop enforcing the ban at both facilities. If the low attendance at bingo games persists Cherry says that the post will hold additional fundraisers to make up for the shortfall.