Bingo Operators Say Taxes and Competition are Killing Charity Bingo Games

Is charity bingo dying a slow death? Many charitable organizations think so and cite several factors contributing to the decline. Some cite competition from internet bingo which is cheaper and more convenient. Smoking bans have not been good for charity bingo games and are responsible for a dramatic drop in player numbers. Some operators cite competition from state lotteries and casinos. Commercial tribal bingo games have lured players with higher jackpots that charity organizations cannot match. In Nebraska bingo, which has been a major source of funding for charities, has been on a decade long slide.

While the amount of wagering is increasing in Nebraska, thanks to keno games throughout the state, charitable gaming has suffered. Although bingo is gambling it serves a more important purpose for many players. For these players bingo is a chance to get out of the house and socialize with friends. Last year Nebraska’s largest bingo game was forced to shut down because of a drop in revenues. In the 1950’s Holy Name parish in Omaha started running bingo games and after years of declining revenues the parish could no longer justify the cost of operating the games. During better years the parish earned $250,000 to support the church and its elementary school.

In Arkansas charity bingo operators blame casinos across the state’s borders and the lottery for declining revenues. Even worse the state imposed a tax on bingo cards. Since 2008 the number of charity bingo permits has dropped 30%. Gene McVay, former commander of the American Legion Post 31 in Fort Smith. McVay told reporters “I don’t know anybody who can afford (to run) bingo (operations).” McVay said the tax on bingo cards was responsible for the post’s abandonment of the charity bingo games. Charity bingo operators took their concerns to state lawmakers without success.

McVay said the tax was the main reason the post decided to shut down the bingo games. McVay said of the tax “That pretty much killed bingo in Arkansas, to my knowledge” and added that a number of American Legion posts have stopped operating charitable bingo games. Jesse Lewis, current commander of Legion Post 31 said that competition from casinos in Oklahoma contributed to the post’s decision to shut down the bingo games. Lewis said “They offer a lot bigger prizes. It’s hard to compete with them.” Hopefully charity bingo can rebound but it will be a long hard road.