State laws take a little more out of the heart of charitable bingo!
Bingo is alive, well and successful in Amarillo, Texas. For the first 7.5 months of 2012, charitable bingo in Texas has accounted for $281 million in prizes and $3.5 million in taxes. However, 2009 amendments to the state’s Bingo Enabling Act have taken their toll on the charities that rely on bingo profits.
Changes in the Law
Prior to the 2009 changes in the law that controls charitable bingo, lessors like Littlefield Corp. of Austin were solely responsible for all building expenses. The charities had only rent to pay. The amendments currently allow lessors to charge their nonprofit lessees for all associated costs, including taxes, utilities, maintenance and insurance. W.L. “Dubb” Davis, the head of one of Littlefield’s lessees, has calculated that the annual bill for these expenses totals approximately $40,000.
Littlefield Corp. is the lessor for Amarillo Charitable Bingo Unit. That bingo group consists of Old Corral Club, Khiva Temple, a Tascosa High School booster club, Alamo Booster Club and Hilltop Senior Center. The income of the Bingo Unit dropped precipitously in 2011. Total revenue for that year was a little less than $104,000, as compared to the nearly $166,000 of 2010 according to the records of the Texas Lottery Commission.
A representative of the Texas Lottery Commission has concluded that the Littlefield rental agreements are legal. The amendments to the bingo law were passed with an overwhelming majority. Only one senator and 16 representatives stood against the bill’s passage. Rep. Debbie Riddle voted against it as she recognized that it was unreasonable of the state to deplete charitable funds. Rep. Riddle views the amendments as an intrusion of the state that potentially places charities in monetary difficulty.
Hilltop Director Iris Lawrence has commented that until a few months ago, Hilltop Senior Center was struggling to remain afloat. She said that the added building costs resulted in a depletion of their treasury fund. The community is benefited by Hilltop, which acts as a social meeting place for seniors, and provides nourishing meals to the homes of seniors who need the service. A financially healthy Senior Center is therefore helpful to the community as a whole.
Charitable bingo in Amarillo has enjoyed an upswing in game participation during the current year. The increase in bingo attendance places nonprofits such as Hilltop Senior Center on a more even keel.
Charitable bingo in Texas is huge. Since its inception in 1981, bingo has annually contributed millions to charities and taxes. Amarillo’s Lawndale Bingo is representative of Texas charitable operations. A manager of Lawndale, Tamara Tucker, stresses that all of the profits flow back into the local community through the various charities associated with that bingo hall. Included in the Lawndale nonprofits are Texas Panhandle Center, Catholic Family Services, Haven Health Clinic, Amarillo Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse and the Family Care Foundation.
Bingo is wildly popular due to its social setting and exciting luck component, as well as the promise of prizes. It is simply an activity filled with fun.