Charity Bingo Sponsors Worried About the Impact of New Casinos

In some states charity bingo games have been irreversibly damaged by smoking bans. One bingo game operator reported he lost almost two thirds of his customers because of a recent smoking ban and that the games were forced to close damaging a local charity. In Massachusetts charity bingo games face another threat; casinos. The bingo games could face heavy competition when three casinos and one slot parlor open in Massachusetts. If everything goes according to plan the casinos will be in operation by 2015.

Beth Bresnahan, director of marketing and communications for  The Massachusetts lottery, told reporters “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 gaming in Massachusetts generates about $75 million annually. The sponsors of the games retain about $18 million according to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. Bingo is the most popular gambling game in the state and in 2011 about $38.8 million was wagered on charity bingo games. Of that total $1.6 was retained by the charitable bingo game sponsors and $ 307 million was paid to players in the form of prizes.

Sponsors of charity bingo events in Massachusetts include churches, veterans groups, civic organizations and youth groups. In a lot of cases the revenue generated by charity bingo games generates most of the money game sponsors donate to charity. Alan Rock, who runs the bingo nights at the Elks Lodge No. 2070 in Tewksbury, said he believed that the impact casinos will have on the games he operates will be determined by the proximity of casinos to the lodge. Several locations in the state are under consideration for casino construction. The games run by Rock attract about 100 players weekly and the money raised is used for scholarships to local students, fund Thanksgiving dinners for senior citizens, and buy dictionaries for local third graders.

Lottery official Bresnahan believes that the proposed casinos will have little impact on charitable gaming. She believes that bingo games attract a different sort of player than casinos and pointed out that most bingo players are more interested in socialization than financial gain. 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 nonprofit raise money, there’s a stronger emotional tie that players or people who frequent those games have.”