Bingo in Big Trouble Since Casinos Opened

For many years nows, gambling related games have been a reliable source of nonprofit fundraising efforts to raise cash, yielding millions yearly and provides for everything like band instruments, baseball uniforms, scholarships for poor but deserving students, to slaries for teachers in schools.

But after 15 years since legalized gambling became a regular sight in Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek, bingo has been on the losing end of the whole deal.

To better understand the whole matter, consider the following:

Back in 1996, bingo players wagered a combined total of $222 million dollars in Colorado alone. Compare to the figure just last year, the toatl number of wagers that players have made have only just reached $126 million dollars, $96 million dollars less compared to back in 1996. It includes the figures in the pull-tab games.

Back in 2001, there are 1,428 active bingo licenses in Colorado, but the figure dropped to 1,173 by the end of last year.

Just recently, the number of players that are playing bingo has dropped from $632,000 during the 1st quarter of 2005 to $565,000 in the first quarter of this year.

The casino business is also bingo's biggest competitor. Just last year, profits from three mountain casino town reaches a huge $775 million dollars, significantly much higher compared to what they have earned back in 1996 which is $412 million dollars.

Though not everyone in the State of Colorado is struggling. Some games, especially those that are operated by non-charitable organizations who owns their own bingo hall are surprisingly just doing fine. Evidence of this fact is like a recent Saturday night at the St. Louis cafeteria in Englewood. Austin Gomes, the one in charge of the bingo game said that he have already counted 200 people in attendance even the the temperature is sweltering hot.

The surprising thing about the situation is that it is an "old-school" bingo game. It means that there are no electronic devices that are involved, there are no bells and whistles even. It is just 14 rows of people that are listening intently and carefully to the bino caller's voice, announcing the next number.

The crowd is composed of mothers and daughters, even three generations of bingo players are present that night. Suddenly, A man on the far end of the room visibly perked up. "Bingo! Hallelujah!"

There is already a winner for that round, so another game begins.

For almost 27 years, people, especially parishioners have been playing bingo in St. Louis in a regular basis. Austin Gomes, who is well liked by his fellow community members, has presided over the games since its beginning 27 years ago.

Those days where considered the golden era of bingo. Crowds were so huge that the games have to be held in a gymnasium and two floors were used while holding the games.

With all these things that are happening, the question is, Is Bingo dying? People in charge of the operations of the games says that they do not think so but honestly said that bingo compared to what it is used to be back in its early years are so much different from its situation right now.

Austin Gomes said that Bingo is on decline, there is no other way to say it. Gomes serves on the advisory board for Bingo and Raffle gaming to secretary of state's office, which handles the responsibility of regulating games like bingo.

But he does make a distinction between halls that has to rent space to nonprofitable organizations that owns it own hall such as St. Louis. This groups are doing well compared to the other who has to rent their own space to hold their bingo operations. Like last year, St. Louis' revenues from their bingo games reaches about $50,000 dollars in net profit. Salaries of the teachers and the upkeep of the buildings are the main beneficiaries of the revenues from this bingo games.

Another advisory board member from Berthoud, says that Bingo is on the decline and that players don't have that much money to play often. In Corky Kyle's opinion, who is a lobbyist representing the Colorado Charitable Bingo Association the pronlem would be is generational, which means that only older players are more interested to play bingo. The average age of players out there is 50 years old.

Another obstacle that are facing the bingo industry right now is the state law that requires all games to be handled by volunteers only. It is a problem as the nonprofitable groups are having difficulty in finding volunteers to run a game.

To counter this problem, the Colorado Charitable Bingo Association is pushing for some changes to the law which will allow bingo halls to pay some bingo employees.

The Colorado Charitable Bingo Association is composed of six bingo hall owners and eight nonprofitable groups. Over the years, the association has manage to change several provisions of the law to draw a larger and younger players in their halls.

Among these changes are the use of electronic bingo device, progressive jackpots which means that if no one wins the jackpot in a game, the money will carry over to the next round making it higher, a higher limit in what a player can win in a single game. The previous limit is $1,500 dollars, there is a proposal by the Secretary of the State to raise it to $2,500 dollars.

But the association lost one of its biggest battles, which is for bingo games to be exempted from the smoking ban, which is granted to its competitors, the casino games. But now that the ban has been in place for almost a month, bingo operators can breathe a little easier now as they believe that they even gain some back.

Now that the ban has been in effect for nearly a month, bingo operators are no longer as worried about losing customers. In fact, a few believe they've gained some back. They even notice a new crowd of customers have come to play now that the smoking ban has been in place. These are the people who cannot come down to play previously because of the smoke filled halls.