The Effect of Smoking Bans on Charity Bingo

It is an established fact that smoking bans and bingo do not mix well. In 2007 the UK government imposed a nationwide smoking ban that crippled the land based bingo industry. Dozens of bingo halls were forced to close because of declining player numbers. At the time it was estimated that about 63% of all bingo players were smokers. In Corbin Kentucky a local bingo hall is seeking an exemption from the city’s ban on smoking in public places. The ban has hurt business at the hall and it has hurt the revenue that charities receive from bingo games.

During a regular meeting of the commissioners a representative from the Corbin Bingo Parlor said that during the last 16 months revenues for charities has declined by 70%. Corbin Bingo Parlor Manager Luane Tompkins told the commissioners “We tried to comply with the city’s non-smoking ban, but those revenues have dropped as a result of the ordinance. All four of the charities who use our parlor are on probation with the state Charitable Gaming Commission because they’ve lost their 40 percent profit margin. That’s because they’ve lost their bingo players. Attendance has been lost by half.”

Tompkins told the commissioners that if player numbers continue to decline four bingo halls will lose their charitable gaming licenses. Jason Hale, Corbin’s United Effort Executive Director, stated “Our revenue stream is down $22,500 so far this year because of the smaller bingo revenue. Because we lost money, we are currently on probation.” In addition to Corbin’s United Effort three other charities using the bingo hall to raise money include the Tri-County Elks, Whitley County Baseball Boosters and the Whitley County Touchdown Club. All of the charities are seeking an exemption from the town’s draconian smoking ban. The commissioners said they will take the bingo exemption under advisement.

The New York Times reported that charity bingo games are being hurt by bans on indoor smoking. In Minnesota revenues generated by bingo games fell 13% after the state imposed an indoor smoking ban. In Fergus Falls Minnesota bingo players that used to attend charity bingo games at the local American Legion post now go to casinos or cross the border into South Dakota where veterans groups are exempt from the state’s smoking ban. Charlie Lindstrom of the American Legion post told reporters “It’s had a profound effect on us here. We’ve sponsored several baseball teams here in the past, but we can’t give as much now because the smoking ban has really reduced our revenue.”

Charities in California, New Jersey, New York, and Washington also report declining revenues caused by indoor smoking bans. Some bingo operators say that smokers at bingo games outnumber nonsmokers three to one. Smoking ban advocates say that the negative effects of smoking bans tend to be short lived. For players in states with indoor smoking bans internet bingo is one solution. The games are affordable and the jackpots are usually much larger than those at land based bingo halls. Even better, most internet bingo operators offer deposit bonuses and a never ending selection of promotions.