Church Bingo Worth Saving

For decades bingo has had a very close association with churches, veterans groups and fraternal organization. In its prime bingo raised thousands, even millions, for various good causes. In one Ohio parish bingo games enabled the parochial school connected with the church to keep tuition affordable and offer scholarships to the disadvantaged. Because of a sharp decline in player numbers the parish was forced to end the games and was forced to raise tuition and end the scholarships. Across the United States declining player numbers are forcing churches and charities to end their bingo games.

Today the internet, social media, smartphones and legalized gambling have made the decline of charity bingo inevitable. At one time bingo games at churches served a variety of purposes. Seniors had an excuse to get out of the house and socialize with friends and the chance to win a few dollars while having fun. In most cases players knew they were contributing to a good cause. All of the incentives offered by bingo still exist but the games are facing competition from casinos and racinos. Many people now play internet bingo.

In many cases charity bingo games have reached the tipping point; when the amount of revenue brought in does not exceed the expenses of running a game the incentive to host the games falls to zero. Monsignor Joseph Rauscher, pastor of St. Nicholas Church in Wilkes-Barre said “When it costs us money to give away prizes, when it’s no longer financially feasible, that’s when it can’t continue.” The loss of bingo games at the church would be a very dismal milestone. The games at St. Nicholas are some of the oldest in the country and the first games too place way back in 1933.

Monsignor Rauscher noted said that when bingo at the church was in its prime the games brought in $45,000 annually. In the United States church based bingo games have been a cultural phenomenon. Bingo players could find a game just about anywhere in the US no matter how remote. In the age of social media people sometimes become isolated. Instead of common places that were once shared people have created an insular world. Bingo games are still a place where people can engage in face to face communication and for that reason alone is worth preserving. Hopefully some bright minds will figure out a way to revive this affordable and beneficial game.