New Jersey Veterans May Be Able to Host Bingo Games to Raise Money

A new law in New Jersey will allow Veterans groups to use games of chance to raise money to pay bills. The bill was signed by Governor Chris Christie but voters will have the final say. The constitutional amendment will be on the ballot in this year’s November elections. If the voters in New Jersey approve veterans organizations like the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars that have meeting halls could use the profits generated by games of chance like bingo or raffles to pay for operational expenses for the groups. They can also use the profits for the upkeep of their meeting halls.

Under current New Jersey laws the veterans organizations are not allowed to use money generated by games of chance to pay their heating and electric bills. The money from fundraisers using games of chance must be used for education, religious or community programs. New Jersey State Senator Kip Bateman R-Somerville said in a statement “Non-profits and organizations that serve our veterans have undergone difficult times in recent years as many people have had less to give because of economic hardships. This bill gives veterans group’s additional financial flexibility by allowing them to tap a new stream of revenues to help pay their bills.”

The ballot measure has had mixed reactions from some members of the veterans groups. Bob Salvini, the commander of the Bergen County American Legion believes adding raffles will allow some posts to make necessary renovations. Veterans groups had earned money by renting their halls for weddings banquets and other events. The groups face stiff competition from other banquet halls throughout New Jersey and revenues from hall rentals are down. Salvini told reporters “They don’t have the funds to make repairs, paint the walls or replace the wallpaper.” Salvini said money from raffles could be used for hall renovations making them more competitive.

Not everyone is pleased with the ballot measure. Tony Vancheri is the president of the Paterson Veterans Council and is a member of the Totowa American Legion. Vancheri says that he understands the need for more money but believes the problem is one of membership not just revenues. Vancheri told reporters “Bingo is not going to get veterans in your doors. It’s going to get people who want to play bingo, and we should not be supporting our halls on the backs of other people.”  Vancheri said that the council does not have a hall but the local American Legion does. Vancheri said the post does well with hall rentals.

Vancheri believes the best way for veterans organizations to stay active and relevant to younger veterans is to help returning veterans find jobs, homes and education. Vancheri said “Leave bingo to the churches.”