Building Community with Bingo
Dear Aunt Bingo:
I enjoy going to Bingo on occasion with friends and consider myself lucky to be in my 80s and still able to get out and do things like this.
There are many people in my senior community who do not have the luxury of getting out as easily as I do to go shopping, see a movie or play Bingo. They still wish to be active, but for various physical/health reasons must stay close to home.
I was thinking it would be fun to start a Bingo for these people. It’s a fairly large community and I think it would be easy to get enough players. People could buy into the games by paying for their cards (just a few dollars) and that money would be for prizes and any equipment we needed to purchase.
Do you know of other senior groups that have done this? How difficult is it to get a community Bingo going?
Anna R., Ohio
I applaud you for wanting to do something to enhance the lives of those who live in your community. You have a very good heart.
Your idea of hosting a community Bingo sounds like a simple one, but what you are proposing is actually a version of the kinds of Bingo you currently attend, and those Bingos require local/state approval and ongoing supervision.
The minute you involve money in Bingo it becomes wagering, a.k.a. gambling, which gaming authorities take quite seriously. It may sound like a fun little community activity, which it certainly can be, but the money component, no matter how small, changes the entire dynamic of your games.
Just last year in California, for example, the Los Angeles Police Department closed down a Bingo in a senior center that was charging players 25 cents per card and giving dollar store items as prizes. No matter how small the buy-in was, it was still a buy-in, which made the games illegal.
Although the Bingo had been offered for years, all it took was a phone call from one disgruntled resident to halt everything. On a brighter note, the community center eventually got a license and resumed its Bingo.
My advice is that if you decide to further explore offering Bingo in your community, keep money out of it. Let players play for free; hopefully there is an activity fund where you can get money to buy prizes.
On the other hand, if you want to offer full-fledged Bingo with buy-ins and cash prizes, the Ohio Attorney General’s Charitable Law Section—which regulates Bingo and licenses nonprofit organizations eligible to use Bingo as a fundraising mechanism—will determine if you qualify as a nonprofit organization and can guide you through the steps necessary to launch a Bingo. The Ohio AG Help Center may be reached at 800-282-0515.
Other readers considering the idea of starting a Bingo should look online for the local entity that regulates Bingo in their state, contact them and go from there. Good luck! —Aunt Bingo
Share your views! Write to Aunt Bingo c/o the Bingo Bugle, P.O. Box 527, Vashon, WA 98070, or email her at STENGL456@aol.com. Be sure to include your name and address (you can request that your name not be published), as typically she will not include anonymous letters in her columns.
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