News and Tribune

Recent Local News

January 23, 2014

Bigger prizes may be jackpot for charity bingos in Indiana

Bill would boost top prize to $30,000

INDIANAPOLIS — Bingo players in church basements and American Legion halls could hit much bigger jackpots this summer if legislators raise the limits on prize money.

A bill passed by the Senate Public Policy Committee would up the limit on cash prizes from $599 to $15,000 for individual games, and boost the top prize to $30,000 for the “super” bingo games that hundreds of non-profits use to raise money.

The legislation comes after a nearly $100 million drop in the amount raised by bingos and other charity gaming over the past five years, amid heavier competition for gambling dollars.

“We really think by raising the prize limits, we can make charity gaming more competitive,” said the bill’s author, state Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg.

Bigger prizes would answer the prayers of parishioners of St. Louis Catholic Church in Batesville. Up until two years ago, the church’s bingo games generated about $200,000 a year in profits — all of which went to help local families pay tuition at the church school.

Bingo revenue is down almost 35 percent. Church members blame the unlimited bingo prizes in some neighboring states, as well as Indiana’s two-year-old smoking ban, which exempted casinos but covered bingo halls.

“We’ve lost hundreds of players,” said Whitey Weberding, who helps run the bingo games. “They say, ‘I like smoking and I like playing bingo. But if I can’t smoke, I’m not coming.’”  

Five-figure prize money could convince some people to snuff out their smokes long enough to come back to play, said Weberding.

“We’ve got three casinos within an hour’s drive from us,” he said. “That’s a lot of competition.”

Lawmakers capped bingo prize money after the state began regulating charitable gaming in 1994. The caps were intended to keep unscrupulous operators from moving into the state and squeezing out churches and charities.

Charitable gaming — which includes bingos, raffles and pull-tabs — raises only about $4 million a year for the state, through fees charged to game operators.

But it raises millions of dollars for churches and non-profits.

Ed Feigenbaum, who produces the Indiana Gaming Insight newsletter, said charitable gaming made more than $500 million in gross revenues every year from 1997 to 2009.

The plunge started in 2010. By last year, the 3,200 charities and churches licensed for gambling pulled in about $450 million — dramatically down from the high-water mark of $585 million in 2000.

Bingo alone generated $425 million in gross revenues for non-profits in 2007. By last year, that figure had dropped to $187 million. The decline is due in part to tougher rules imposed by the state, which have decreased the number of bingo operators.

Butch Snook, of the American Legion Post 11 in Lafayette, feels the impact. Working with a neighboring post, his organization has raised money through bingo to donate about $100,000 a year to various causes, from the Boy Scouts to American Legion Baseball.

That’s getting harder to do, he said.

“It’s imperative that we get some changes made to the system,” Snook said.

Feigenbaum said the drop in charitable gaming parallels a decline in casino gaming.

He recently reported that Indiana's casino tax revenues are falling faster than expected — almost 15 percent over the past six months. That follows four years of falling revenues.

The trend hits state coffers hard. Last year, the State of Indiana collected about $752 million in gaming tax revenues, down from nearly $1 billion five years ago.

Feigenbaum is convinced Hoosiers are still shaking off a tough recession.

“Gaming in all forms in Indiana is facing competitive and economic pressures,” he said. “There is a lot of competition for discretionary dollars and fewer of those discretionary dollars to go around.”

— Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com. Follow her on Twitter @Maureen.Hayden

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Recent Local News
LOCAL MAGAZINES
Easter 2014 photos


Click on any photo to purchase it.

SPECIAL CONTENT
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
AP Video
Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN Raw: Deadly Landslide Hits Indian Village Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit New Bill Aims to Curb Sexual Assault on Campus Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey Raw: Obama Eats Ribs in Kansas City In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo NCAA Settles Head-injury Suit, Will Change Rules Raw: Amphibious Landing Practice in Hawaii
2013 Photos of the year


Take a look at our most memorable photos from 2013.