Smoking Ban Puts Pressure on Charity Bingo Games

It is a well-established fact that bingo and smoking bans don’t mix well. When a national smoking ban was imposed in the UK bingo hall operators saw a dramatic decline in business. In Ohio a local parish was forced to raise tuition because player numbers dropped after the state implemented a smoking ban. In the neighboring state of Indiana the state’s fifth highest grossing bingo hall has been forced to close due to a combination of the smoking ban, mismanagement and a sluggish economy. The AMVETS post in Muncie has held bingo games for two decades.

The Knights of Columbus Council 560’s bingo games have become less profitable. The KOC games are the second highest grossing bingo games in Indiana. Because of the drop in profits the organizations will be forced to donate less money to the Special Olympics and a soup kitchen. AMVETS commander Robert Martin told reporters “The smoking ban killed us. It hurt us big time. We had mismanagement, too, but attendance dropped drastically, from 250 or 260 a night down to 175 to 225. We kept falling short of what we needed to operate. We had to close the doors.”

For the year ending June 30th 2011 the K of C took in $4.4 million and the AMVETS raised $3.9 million according to reports submitted to the Indiana Gaming Commission. The AMVETS gave $37,225 to charity and the K of C donated $283,755 in 2011. Martin stated “This is putting a big crunch on transporting veterans. The post is supporting that now, but that takes away money we had used to support little league, volleyball and other programs (at Delaware Community Schools). We will still participate in Toys for Tots, but not as much. And we will still support Special Olympics.”

The K of C bingo games support Special Olympics, American Cancer Society, Boys Scouts of America, Harvest Soup Kitchen, Meals on Wheels, Shop with a Cop, scholarships and Central High School sports. Although the statewide smoking ban exempts bingo halls operated by fraternal organizations both operations are located in Delaware County which has more stringent regulations. Because of the strict ban Delaware County residents are driving to Chesterfield where smoking in bingo halls is permitted to get their bingo fix.

K of C’s Jim Cheslik said that times are tough for bingo halls. In addition to losing players because of the smoking ban Cheslik said that “the economy itself is down and the state is cutting into our business. The state sells pull tabs at Village Pantries, Rickers and BPs. Pull tabs are a big part of what we do. And the state is not giving back nearly as much as we are.” Operators are hoping that Delaware County will rethink its restrictive ban and give bingo halls an exemption.