These Charities are Giving Bingo a Bad Name

innerbad12052016Bingo is a simple game with easy-to-follow rules that make it perfect for fundraising and charity. Just grab a few cards, take a seat and listen with bated breath as the caller announces number after number after number until someone claims a victory. These days, it seems like fundraisers and charity drives are everywhere. Just take a trip to your local grocery store, and you’ll likely be met with requests for donations for one cause or another. Sure, we all want to be helpful and support those in need when we can, but uncovering which charities are worthwhile and which are just scams trying to lighten your wallet can be a difficult task.

While charity bingo is nothing new, it’s come under fire over the years for some shady dealings. Large segments of the population have at least some reservations about gambling as a whole, and these drawbacks are often amplified when games are played in the name of a good cause. Then, there’s the other side of the coin. Some individuals are more interested in playing bingo than contributing to a cause. These people don’t always approach charity bingo games with the best of intentions in mind, and the results can be devastating for event organizers and the charities themselves. In this article, we’re going to take a look at two unique cases in which charity bingo tournaments went wrong, as well as the viability of bingo as a fundraising tool. These instances should serve as a reminder to keep your wits about you, even when at charity events. Some people just can’t leave well enough alone.

Rubber Checks and Arrests

In 2010, a charity bingo tournament in Kentucky took a dark turn when two players were arrested after passing not one, not two, but 11 bad checks over the course of the games. In total, police said the partners in crime passed more than $1,400 in phony checks from two different credit unions. After a little research, it was discovered that the accounts printed on all of the checks were actually fake. Luckily for the charity, an off-duty police officer was hanging around and caught wind of the scam just in the nick of time. However, the charitable organization still lost about $300 in donations over the course of a week.

This case just goes to show that not everyone will be on board with a chance to help others. If given the opportunity, deception is just in the nature of some people. Does this fact reflect poorly on the game of bingo? We don’t think so. After all, if people let the possibility of a bad apple stop them from attempting to do good in the community, nothing good would ever happen. For these two bingo bandits, 11 combined counts of forgery will serve as a solid lesson moving forward.

Fake Money for a Real Cause

In 2015, a second charity bingo in Kentucky being held for Dreams With Wings, a non-profit organization that serves children and adults with intellectual disabilities, was the victim of a counterfeit money scam. When a volunteer at the event noticed that a stack of cash felt wrong, it was discovered that nearly $500 worth of fake bills had been used at the bingo hall. After marking the cash with a detection pen, the volunteer confirmed that the bills were fake, but the unknown criminal had already fled the scene. After this event, Dreams With Wings organizers stated that they will increase the scrutiny with which they examine donations in the future.

Jennifer Frommeyer, executive director for Dreams With Wings, told WDRB that the charity’s protocol typically involves a check of big bills, but these fakes somehow slipped in under the radar. The U.S. Secret Service commenced an investigation into the charity bingo hall’s troubles, as well as some other local businesses that suffered a similar fate. Secret Service agents remind people to double check if a bill is real if anything seems out of the ordinary. It can be useful to have another bill in your wallet that you can use to compare.

Yanked Bingo Licenses

Not every negative bingo result is the fault of dishonest players. Earlier this year in Texas, nearly a dozen charity bingo clubs had their gaming licenses revoked after consistently losing money sponsoring bingo. After a while, charity bingo events that don’t make money simply don’t make sense, and that was the case in the Lone Star State. Since 1980, bingo has been allowed in Texas specifically to benefit charities. However, a recent decline in popularity and a steep drop-off in raised funds have regulators calling foul. In 2014, a record $740 million were spent in charitable bingo games, but charitable donations were at an all-time low. This is because organizers have been forced to increase prizes in order to compete.

In one example in Bexar County, San Antonio Positive Solutions, a nonprofit affiliated with a charter school, began playing bingo in the fall of 2012 to raise money for new classrooms. In its first quarter, bingo proceeds produced $1,100 for the charity. In the four years since, the nonprofit hasn’t earned anything by hosting bingo games. The charity recently stopped sponsoring games as a result.
So, is charity an effective tool for charities? Most signs point to no. While it is a great option for getting people out of the house and more involved in their communities, it’s relatively useless as a regular fundraising event. Whether through the bad intentions of local gamblers or the sheer costs of hosting games, charity bingo’s cash drawing power is minimal. Add to that the difficulties of competing in a market with for-profit bingo halls – which can offer higher prizes on a regular basis – and you’ve got a recipe for a less-than-interesting charitable tool.

With the rise of online bingo, the heyday of bingo as a community fundraiser seems to be over. However, if an event in your area uses bingo as a tool for a great cause, don’t be too jaded to join in the fun. Regardless of the difficulties of effectively raising cash with bingo, it can still be a lot of fun to play.