Charity Bingo Regulation Lax in Texas

Bingo games and charities have had a very close connection for decades. In the United States most bingo games were held in parish halls and fraternal organizations until some states expanded their gaming operations. In the state of Texas charity bingo games generate about $700 million annually. Recent reports indicate that out of that $700 million only $29 million actually made it to the charities it was intended for. So who is responsible for regulating charity bingo in Texas and making sure charities receive their fair share?

Just about everyone involved in the charity bingo business is making lots of money. At Corpus Christi Bingo games take place the games are run by the Columbian Ladies of South Texas for their church Our Lady of Guadalupe. The group is affiliated with the Knights of Columbus and holds their games on Wednesday nights. The group made about $1.12 million last year and paid out more than $860,000. The charity only received 3% of the $257,000 that was left. The group is supposed to pay 35% to the charity. When reporters inquired about their expenses the group’s treasurer said “I can’t even come up with a figure.”

The group is registered as a 501(c) (3) nonprofit with the IRS. When asked what the charity actually does Betty Constante, a member of the group, told reporters “We give out scholarships and we have Christmas parties for the children, especially families right here from the bingo, because they’re the ones that support our bingo, and we help our church, the Lady of Guadalupe Church.” The Columbian Ladies offer scholarships from $1,500 on down and the group says that everyone who applies gets something. In 2012 the charity received only $7,596.00 from the bingo games.

The women admitted that they started the organization to start the bingo games. The ladies get paid for the time they spend at games. Some of the members make $75 a night working at the games. The Texas Lottery Commission is in charge of regulating charity bingo games but seems to have fallen asleep at the wheel. The commission is currently auditing the group’s books for any irregularities. A 2012 Sunset Advisory Commission report said that bingo has ‚Äúvery real opportunities for fraud.” The Sunset Commission also said that the Charitable Bingo Operations Division has “an inefficient audit and inspection process.” Reporter’s calls to the Commission were ignored.