Petersburg Township Votes No for Upper Township Bingo License Fee!

Petersburg Township Votes NO!

Petersburg, New Jersey will be the first Township to obtain a state gaming license for legalized games of chance.  The municipality of the Upper Township knows that it is not economically feasible for non-profit organizations to pay the annual licensure fee of $1,000 and continue to raise money for charitable contributions.  The Township Committee voted on Monday to provide local organizations with the use of the community center to hold fundraising events that include games of chance, such as bingo, to raise funds for educational, patriotic, religious, senior citizen associations and other publicly beneficial groups.  The groups will utilize the gaming license that the Township seeks to acquire from the New Jersey Legalized Games of Chance Control Commission could issue.

The Commission

The New Jersey Legalized Games of Chance Control Commission received an application for a Bingo license from the Upper Township.  Following a committee vote, the Township agreed to apply for the municipal gaming license in order for local non-profit organizations to feasibly promote fundraisers for charitable causes.  The industry of ‘charitable’ gaming is an $85 million a year operation, according to their website.  The Commission manages almost 1000 amusement games at various amusement parks, state and county fairs, and ‘seashore’ resorts that offer games of chance.  Each year the Commission issues nearly 12,000 gaming licenses to an array of charitable organizations.

Petersburg, New Jersey Would Set Precedent

Mayor Richard Palombo asserted that the Township seeks the license that would be exclusive to the community center in order to help the local non-profits raise funds.  The municipality is in no way moving forward with the plan to make a profit.  The Township simply wants to make a contribution to the many charitable groups that would like to offer bingo games at fundraising events.  Individual charity groups are generally unable to afford the annual gaming license that costs $1,000.  There has been no further information made available as to the status of the decision to be made by the New Jersey Gaming Commission to date.

Charitable Bingo laws Differ between Texas and Pennsylvania

Charitable Bingo in Texas

In Texas, Charitable Bingo is defined as a game of chance where random numbers are called out to coincide with the numbers on Bingo cards. Bingo is also called “Lotto.” Authorized commercial lessor means a person is eligible for a license that will be used to lease a Bingo Hall property. Likewise, the person is also an Authorized organization that holds a license for Bingo. The licensed person will seek an Automated Bingo service, which is a computer program used for accounting and required reports for the gaming commission. Temporary licenses are also available, and are subject to taxes and fees. Only six temporary licenses are granted per year.

Bingo equipment by law, includes a machine that generates the balls or letters, an electronic device or mechanical device, a pull-tab feed, Bingo card or ball, or any other device that is used for Bingo games. Children’s Bingo games and parts of a Bingo machine are not classified as Bingo equipment, according to the Charitable Bingo law.

Charitable Bingo is operated by nonprofit organizations that are unincorporated or corporations certified by the state’s nonprofit law, and are classified as a 501 (c) of the Internal Revenue Code. Members and officers of the nonprofits should not benefit from the Bingo proceeds. Texas law will license nonprofits that operate with a board of directors in which votes are taken to elect officers. It will also license volunteer fire departments, organizations for veterans, fraternal clubs and religious societies.

Charitable Bingo in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania expands its law as compared to Texas. It also licenses county fair boards, agricultural associations, auxiliaries and their charter groups, elderly residents (age 62 and over) in senior housing and various civic organizations. Members are declared “Bona fide” by law, and are the only persons allowed to operate Bingo events.

Bingo in Pennsylvania is discussed in a lengthy definition because the Charitable Bingo law describes every aspect of the game from how the cards are laid out to the free space and synopsis of how the numbers play out to constitute a Bingo. Equipment is referred to as a wheel or any mechanical device, and is vague compared to the Texas definition. The equipment must be owned by the organization that is licensed. If two or more organizations own the equipment, all organizations must be licensed. Prizes are also mentioned in the definition.

The state groups licensing and operation regulations together, which includes accounting and finance. Pennsylvania is very specific in its licensing regulations. If somebody other than the organizations own the property where Bingo is held, then the leasing costs cannot be based on how many people are playing or the amount of the proceeds. Organizations are not allowed to lease property from anyone convicted of violating Charitable Bingo laws.

Fees run at levels to suit every organization. Nonprofits pay $100, but senior citizens who hold a Bingo event for members only, pay a $50 fee. The county fair is charged $100. Those playing just once a year are responsible for a $15 fee. Fees are paid to the county in which the Bingo event is held. Organizations may not hold Bingo events more than two times per week, unless they are hosting a carnival or fair. Then, the game is permitted for 10 consecutive days.

Charity Bingo: The Perfect Fundraiser

Charity bingo at the Best Western Palace Hotel and Casino has raised an amazing £45,000 for various charities this year.  Charity bingo was held 48 times during the past year and each night was dedicated to raising money for a different charity.  Participants can purchase tickets for £20 which includes 10 games of bingo, a buffet and a chance to win great cash prizes.  Funds from Mechanical Coin Bingo are also given to charity along with funds made from raffles and other fundraising events. 

 Get Involved with Charity Bingo

Charity bingo is fun for everyone who attends as players are able to relax in a comfortable atmosphere and at the same time, contributing to a great cause.  Charity bingo nights are almost as much fun for the bingo employees as it is for bingo players.  The charities that benefit from charity bingo agree that it is one of their largest fundraisers and some events can contribute as much as £2,000 a night for charities.  The charities are universally supported and everyone has a wonderful time.  St. Mary’s Lourdes Youth Center, one of the charities that is supported by charity bingo, sends 25 youths to Lourdes, France each July to volunteer with assisting the disabled, elderly and sick.  The funds that are received from charity bingo allow St. Mary’s to pay for accommodation and travel costs of the youths that go on the trip. 

Ohio Charitable Bingo and VLTs

The owners of Ohio racetracks have argued that they need a fair chance to compete against casinos and racetracks in other states.  They argued that the people of Ohio were going to racetracks in other states which had video lottery terminals (VLTs) and slot machines.  This argument resulted in the installation of VLTs at Ohio’s racetrack facilities.  Now, charitable bingo operations in Ohio are making the same claim.  In 2010, Ohio had over 2,000 bingo games. This figured has dropped precipitously to a little over 1,300.  The bingo games and supported charities are now struggling since the openings of casinos, racetracks and sweepstakes cafes. And it is likely that they will struggle more as additional casinos are opened.

Makeshift Solution to Bingo Woes

Because of this, charities have been forced to reduce services to senior citizens, veterans, the disabled, the poor and those will illnesses.  These charities have discontinued services that many people have relied on.  The charitable bingo operators say they are also only asking for a fair chance to compete just as the racetrack operators have.  Owners of charitable bingo operations are only requesting permission to operate VLTs for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and not for a change in Ohio state law. 

In order for charitable bingo to operate VLTs, there just needs to be a small change to the current laws so these operations can apply for a VLT license.  The charitable bingo operators are also not asking for an increase in gambling but for the ability to operate games that have been around for years.  Moreover, charitable bingo operators are asking to use these same games that have already done a great deal of good for the communities around Ohio. 

Charitable Bingo Rooms Draw Thieves

Charitable Bingo is a major success, so teenagers stole the profits!

Ellesmere Port in the UK is the home of the Mecca bingo hall.  Charitable bingo profits for the first half of 2012 have exceeded the expectations for the entire year! 

Mecca’s goal for all of 2012 was £1,500.  By the end of June, Mecca had amassed £1,700 to be tendered to Marie Curie Cancer Care.  Each year Mecca sponsors a different charity.  Their success is attributed to the dedication of team members and charitable customers.  Various events have been held at Mecca during 2012 to add to the success of its charitable donations.  The gift to the Cancer Care organization will enable an increase in free home nursing care for cancer patients.

Gary Shanks, the general manager of Mecca Ellesmere Port, is thankful to the team members and loyal customers for their successful fundraising efforts.  Also thankful is the community fundraiser for Marie Curie Cancer Care, Charlotte Sewell.  She recently praised the Mecca bingo hall and all similar organizations for their serious charitable efforts.  Sewell commented that the funds provided by the bingo hall and other charitable entities enabled the Cancer Care to continue its excellent community work.

Country Bingo in Florida

An entirely different scenario enfolded a continent away in the U.S.  Bingo is a time-honoured and loved game.  Bingo halls are therefore known to be profitable.  Money attracts thieves.   Three teenagers in ninja costumes, ran into a Palm Bay, Florida bingo hall filled with players.  The teens, with guns allegedly in full view, started shouting for everyone to drop to the ground.  The terrified players and bingo hall employees hid under tables as the three thieves entered an office, grabbed a suitcase full of money and fled the scene. The suitcase contained checks and cash totaling $4,000.

Good surveillance cameras are credited with solving the crime.  The three 17-year-olds could be seen on the video without masks, looking around the bingo hall prior to the theft.  A confession was obtained from each of the three as the result of the surveillance video and witness accounts. The witnesses said they saw guns, even though guns were not picked up on the video.  According to police, the trio are currently housed in the juvenile detention center, and may be relocated to the jail in Brevard County.  At least one further individual is being sought in the robbery.

Mayra Hidalgo, a citizen of Brevard County, expressed surprise at the criminal actions of the teenagers.  Hidalgo’s perspective is that kids do foolish things, and that is fully expected; but the commission of a crime is a whole other world and completely out of the blue.  The three teens have been charged with armed robbery and grand theft, and will be sentenced as adults.  Crime doesn’t pay, but money remains a magnet.

Charitable Bingo Expands Job Market in Sault Ste. Marie

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) is collaborating with Canadian Bank Note Company (CBN) to create 25 new jobs in Sault Ste. Marie.  The newly created employment openings involve technical support and software development for the charitable bingo and gaming industry in Ontario.

Online Bingo Opens the Door to New Technology Jobs

Charitable bingo has been making money for Ontario nonprofit organizations in e-bingo halls since 2005.  Charities have received an astronomical $40 million from the six e-bingo halls operated by the OLG in the past seven years. The technological support afforded to OLG through the joint efforts of the OLG and CBN is part of a Charitable Bingo and Gaming Revitalization Initiative.   This effort produces a win-win situation for all involved.

 New Jobs on the Horizon

The incentive to modernize the Ontario e-gaming industry has established a growing need for technology support.  That necessity in turn yields the addition of 25 high quality software jobs to the Sault Ste. Marie economy. With the software development centered in Sault Ste. Marie, that local community remains a primary player in the lottery and bingo business.  The new jobs strengthen the local hi-tech market and ensure a vibrant role to Sault Ste. Marie in the modernization of the gaming industry.

Canadian Bank Note Company

An office will be established by CBN in the Sault at the Station Tower on Bay Street.  The purpose of CBN’s office is to provide the technological support, software development and system administration required by the charitable e-gaming industry. CBN is a venerable, Canadian-owned company, having been in existence since 1897.   The headquarters of CBN are located in Ottawa, and the company has a global presence, serving in excess of 60 countries worldwide.  The lottery systems division of CBN operates the entirety of the lotteries in seven Latin American countries. The plan of CBN is to grow a successful hi-tech business in Sault Ste. Marie.   CBN’s vision includes a bingo hall owned by private enterprise, with CBN providing the e-bingo services for the hall.

The OLG

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation is big business.  Through all of its gaming activities, the OLG generates $3.8 billion in annual funds.  This is a large slice of Ontario’s economic picture. The goal of the OLG is responsible gaming, where the player is protected, and fun remains the primary object of playing. OLG makes a full annual disclosure of its revenue and outlay.  Of the $3.8 billion received in the April 2010 through March 2011 period, $2.0 billion was contributed to the Province of Ontario. Charities received $120 million, the Quest for Gold amateur athletics was the beneficiary of $10 million, and $1.8 billion was donated to hospitals, health-related programs and other public needs.

In addition, $52.1 million was donated to the cause of problematic gambling.  $1.9 million was spent on sponsorships of community festivals and events.  Charitable gaming revenues were distributed to local charities in the amount of $7.1 million. Local economies within Ontario were supported by OLG to the extent of $1.7 billion.  The general economy of Ontario is the beneficiary of the success of the OLG. Two financially strong entities, CBN and the OLG, are joining together to modernize charitable e-bingo and the gaming industry for the benefit of everyone.

Decline of Nebraska Charitable Bingo Gaming Revenues

Nebraska charitable bingo gaming becomes an endangered species.

The entertainment of bingo is reaching fewer and fewer people.  The “regulars” are declining in number.  There’s a law of attrition at work here.  As older folks stop going out, no one is taking their places at the bingo tables.  That creates a shortfall in revenue for dozens of Nebraska charities. During the past 10 years, charitable organizations have seen the negative effects of big business gambling.   Bingo halls are shutting down left and right.  The records of the Nebraska Department of Revenue indicate that in 2011, seven bingo operations closed their doors.

One of those charitable bingo-style operations was the Holy Name parish.  Established in Omaha in the 1950s, it flourished for 40 years.  The church and its elementary school relied on the $250,000 per year in bingo revenue.  Unfortunately for the church however, the state lottery came into existence in 1993, followed by casinos.  Soon after the advent of the lottery and big business gambling, church administrators could see and feel the writing on the wall, until there was no longer a financial benefit to continuing their bingo operations.

Diminishing competition among bingo halls does not mean increased profits

In 1993 there were around 279 Nebraska bingo licenses.  Today there are only 93.  Bingo in Grand Island tells the story well.  Bingo used to be played every night of the week in Grand Island.  The town is now down to just three bingo operations:  Elks Club, VFW Post 1347 and the Knights of Columbus Grand Island Chapter.  Seven nights a week of bingo is just a thing of the past.

The three remaining bingo establishments are all experiencing a drop in income.  The collateral damage of that diminished revenue involves a difficult decrease in church contributions.  The difficulty arises when churches have to run their activities with less money.  Ultimately it’s the community that suffers.  A necessary fire engine replacement can’t be made, or youth activities are cut. Industries other than just bingo are endangered due to lottery, casinos and insufficiently protective provisions in the current gaming laws.  Thoroughbred horse racing has also suffered the effects of statewide gambling alternatives.

 History of the Gambling in Nebraska

In 2002, to finance local government, the state offered every town the option of opening keno operations.  Immediately, bars throughout Nebraska became gambling establishments.  While keno wagering has steadily risen, pickle cards have fallen.  For those who have never played, pickle cards are the paper pull-tab tickets game that supports nonprofit organizations.

In 1993, $177 million was wagered in Nebraska on pickle cards.  That amount has dropped drastically, and in 2011 the total was only $28.7 million.  The primary necessity of the bingo industry is to attract new players.  A younger generation needs to be the focal point.  The perception of bingo is one of slow action and old folks’ entertainment.  It’s not accurate. Bingo today is fast, furious and varied.  There’s Instant Bingo; Tournament Bingo; Jackpot Bingo; Team Bingo; Poker Bingo; 30, 75, 80 and 90 Ball Bingo.  The game has already been adapted to the 21st Century.  In many places in the U.S., men and women of all ages are turning on to the social enjoyment and challenge of bingo games.  “Fun” still and forever defines bingo. That message should and can be transmitted to the now generation.  The media is effective, but it must be utilized.  Playing dead doesn’t work.

Necessary changes in Nebraska

According to Steve Schatz, retired Policy Manager, Charitable Gaming Division, Department of Revenue, the state can make adjustments that would be beneficial to bingo, and hopefully reverse the charitable gaming revenue decline in Nebraska.  One innovation would be the establishment of a simulcast bingo.  This involves a video feed of bingo games to locations outside the live bingo operation.  The purpose would be to decrease the costs and increase the pots, to lure former and future bingo players.

Schatz also suggests changes in the Nebraska gaming laws.  He is, however, pessimistic, and believes that the nonprofit organizations can’t get it together sufficiently to lobby for those changes.  Energy and dedication are all that’s needed. It’s essential that bingo operators wake up and begin to use the media to spread information about bingo innovations.  It’s also essential that the Nebraska State Legislature take the bit in its mouth and tweak the gaming laws to protect the endangered bingo, horse racing and pickle card industries.  Competition is the way of life in America.

Church and School Funds Grow with the Expansion of Charitable Bingo

Churches and other charitable organizations have obtained a bonus from the Louisiana State Legislature.

The Louisiana State Legislature is in the process of adding to the coffers of churches and other charitable organizations.  The intent of Senate Bill 101 is to increase the frequency of charitable bingo.  Bill 101 has passed the Senate, and has also been approved by the House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice.  The last hurdle is a final vote in the full House.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Elbert Guillory, D-Opelouses.  Bingo and other charitable gaming operations could be held 20 days per month under Guillory’s bill.  The current law limits gaming events to 15 days a month.

Using Bingo as Revenue for Charities, Churches and Schools

For churches, schools and general charities, bingo is a key revenue source.  Senator Guillory clearly recognizes the necessity of increasing this revenue during a downwardly spiraling economy.  In regard to the intent of the bill, Guillory said that he introduced it to benefit the churches and the schools that are dependent on bingo as a source or revenue.

He further explained that as to the expansion of video bingo games, his bill would not allow it.  Thus Senate Bill 101 addresses the increased use of Live Bingo for the purpose of financially benefitting churches and other charitable organizations.  Online Bingo is not expanded through Guillory’s bill.

Community Benefits from Bingo

This is popular legislation.  People love playing bingo, both live and online.  When properly regulated, as in Italy, everyone benefits.  Expanding Live Bingo gives communities the opportunity to meet and communicate in a friendly and happy environment.  It gives young parents added reason to hire babysitters, get out and socialize.  All for a good cause that is beneficial to the community.

Bingo also adds a spark of life to empty nesters.  Online Bingo and Live Bingo are enjoyed by people of all ages.  Going to the town center, meeting up with lifelong friends, participating in exciting games, the thrill of the occasional win, and enjoyably contributing to worthy organizations, all add up to an entertaining evening well spent.

Charity Bingo Bill by Senator Guillory

The new charitable gaming bill increases the number of days that games of luck or chance can be conducted.

AN ACT

To amend and reenact the current laws relative to charitable gaming, to increase the number of days a licensee may conduct, hold, or operate any game of luck or chance within a calendar month.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of Louisiana:

Section 1 is amended and reenacted to read as follows: Requirements and Restrictions:

  1.  No licensed charitable gaming operator shall conduct, hold, or operate any game of luck or chance under this law for more than twenty calendar days in one month.

Section 2.  Nothing in this Act shall permit the expansion of video bingo in any parish in the State of Louisiana.”

Differences From Current Charitable Gaming Laws

There is only one adjustment from the current statute:  The maximum number of days per month that bingo and other charitable gaming events could be held was 15.  Through Senate Bill 101, that maximum number of days has been increased to 20 per month. There is an interesting and specific provision of this bill, excluding video bingo from the scope of this legislation.  Perhaps future Senate bills will address that issue.

Financial Pressures Eat Away at Charitable Bingo

The Arkansas lottery, casinos in bordering states and the tax on bingo is vastly reducing the funds that charities receive from bingo.  There has been a decline in charitable bingo by over 30% since 2008.  Bingo operators fear that if the bingo decline continues, they will not be able to afford to host charitable bingo events.

Bingo on the Decline

Many bingo operators in Arkansas claim that the casinos in neighboring states, the taxes on bingo and the Arkansas state lottery are eating away at the profits that bingo generates for charity.  Arkansas has issued 30% fewer bingo permits since the Supreme Court of Arkansas ruled the charitable bingo was legal in 2008.  Only 201 bingo permits have been issued for 2011 as opposed to 283 during the 1st year charitable bingo was legal.  Many bingo operators have closed down their bingo halls because they are not able to raise enough money for their charities.

The Department of Finance and Administration has set $600,000 aside to hire personnel to monitor bingo operations with a 1 cent tax on every bingo card. The bingo tax collected $1.1 million in the first year alone and bingo operators argued that the tax was excessive and was cutting into charity funds.  The tax was then lowered to 0.3 cents where it still currently stands at.  With the reduced tax, Arkansas has generated over $200,000 on average and bingo operators say this is still hurting their charitable bingo halls.

Bingo Regulations and Competition

The charitable bingo halls in Arkansas are also having a hard time competing with casinos that are in the neighboring state of Oklahoma.  The bingo operators say the casinos have much bigger prizes and it is impossible to compete with.  Charitable bingo has also come under attack by the Department of Finance and Administration as they say charitable bingo halls must follow all regulations including using volunteers to run the games.  Although charitable bingo is on the decline in Arkansas, the Moose Lodge charitable bingo organization seems to be doing very well.

One of the Lodge’s members says the key to success of charitable bingo is to have a loyal and consistent customer base, to run bingo like a business, advertise the bingo events and most importantly, always follow state regulations.  There have been several bingo halls that have not followed regulations and their licenses were revoked immediately and their profits were taken so it is imperative to follow regulations set by the state.