Charity Bingo Games Losing Players to Large Casinos

In many areas of the United States charitable bingo games must compete with large commercial casinos and bingo halls not to mention internet bingo. In the Alle-Kiski Valley just outside of Pittsburgh local bingo operators lament that their usual players are spending their money elsewhere. Because of the competition volunteer fire departments and social clubs in the Alle-Kiski Valley are not making as much money as they used to and have less for operation expenses and donations to various charities.

John Grillo, an officer with VFW Post 92 in Lower Burrell described the problem and stated “We figure there are three factors involved: the smoking ban, the poor economy and the casinos. Our attendance first took a beating when the smoking ban went into effect (in 2008), the same thing happened when the casinos opened. We can’t be competitive with, say, the Rivers Casino, which offers smoking inside. And the other thing is, with the economy and layoffs; I really don’t feel like people speculate as much anymore because there’s not enough left at the end of the paycheck.” This has been the situation in several parts of the United States. Smoking bans have had an adverse effect on bingo games run by local charities. When a national smoking ban was imposed in the UK dozens of bingo halls were forced to close their doors forever leaving many communities without a local bingo hall.

Grillo said the local VFW used to have more than 300 regular players. Fewer players mean less revenue for the post and Grillo said the post’s revenues are down by about 30%. Games take place on Tuesday nights and for $9 players have a shot at a $1,000 jackpot. Grillo said the post is losing players to casinos. Craig Clark, the general manager of Rivers casino says that the casino has created jobs and contributes millions in tax revenues. Clark stated “Rivers Casino offers a wide array of entertainment, dining and gaming options, and employs more than 1,700 team members. Plus, Rivers is a major economic engine, contributing approximately $175 million annually in taxes for the city of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County and the commonwealth.”

The VFW is not the only organization losing players to commercial casinos. Kevin Abraham, who runs the New Kensington Arnold Lions Club bingo, agreed with Grillo and said his group has been losing players for the same reasons. In areas near large casinos charitable organizations have seen a drop in income which means less money for good causes. If online bingo games become legal charities will face even more pressure.