In both the US and Canada charitable bingo organizations are feeling the pressure from competition by the casino industry. In Ontario Canada charitable bingo games have declined by two thirds and the number of charitable bingo games has plummeted. In the US charitable and church bingo games are also concerned by the rapid expansion of the casino industry which also offers bingo. In addition casino backed bingo halls are able to offer jackpots and prizes well in excess of those that charitable organizations are able to provide. Land based casinos typically provide players with free or reduced price drinks and food which in many cases cannot be provided by charitable bingo operators.
In Cape Girardeau Missouri charitable bingo providers are concerned about the possible location of a new casino in the city. Robert Basler who is president of the Clark Street Project a non profit group that operates Bingo World stated, “We have heard stories about how casinos up in St. Louis put the bingo halls out of business up there, but down here we just don’t know if that will happen. It’s very difficult for us to make an assessment.”Bingo World usually draws a crowd and on a recent Saturday night 800 bingo players showed up to try to win a bingo jackpot of $8,000. One bingo player Cheryl Cavanah of Princeton Kentucky has been driving to Bingo World every weekend for the last six months. She used to play at a bingo hall in Paducah Kentucky. Cavanah stated, “That bingo hall in Paducah holds 350, and it’s always full even with a casino just across the river.”
Some players have indicated that if a casino opens in Cape Girardeau they may split their business between the bingo hall and the new casino which has bingo operators concerned. Bingo World president Basler stated, “That bingo player only has so many dollars to spend. So if they spend some of those dollars at the casino, that leaves less for bingo.” Eight charitable organizations have bingo licenses and the organizations include such well known charity groups as Knights of Columbus Council 1111, Cape Girardeau Elks Lodge, Cape Girardeau Kiwanis Club, Cape Girardeau Optimist Clubs and many other schools and religious organizations that all operate out of Bingo World.
Many charitable organizations say that if they lose players to the new casino they may have to cut back on community projects that benefit many people in the area. Some believe that the effects of the new casino will be short term and that players will return to Bingo World once the novelty wears off. If the bingo hall does close there’s always online bingo which may be the way charities hold bingo games in the future.