Nonprofit Newswire | Charities Bet on Gambling to Make Up for Lost Donations

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October 13, 2010; Source: The Daily Citizen | A growing number of Indiana nonprofits are betting there are better ways to raise money than relying on donations. According to the state’s Gaming Commission, applications for charitable gaming licenses, which would allow nonprofits to collect money from games of chance such as bingo, are on the rise.

The Daily Citizen reports that the number of organizations with charitable gaming licenses climbed to 2,912 in 2010, up from 2,385 in 2008. “We’ve had applicants tell us that their donations had dropped during the recession and they decided to turn to charity gaming to try to make up the difference,” said Diane Freeman, head of the Gaming Commission’s charity gaming division.

Charities allowed to offer gambling raked in the highest amount of money in five years, some $538 million in fiscal year 2009, the most recent year for which data is available. Of that total, $76 million were profits and the rest was paid out as prizes, and covered administrative and operational expenses. Still, gambling is a crapshoot for charities. So far, for fiscal year 2010, 25 percent of organizations with bingo licenses say they are losing money.

But just as there losers, there are winners too. Indiana Sen. Jean Leising said Catholic schools in her district are using bingo proceeds to offset tuition costs, and money from games of chance are enabling volunteer fire departments to purchase safety equipment. “A lot of good is done with money raised through charity gaming,” she said. Anyone want to offer odds on that?—Bruce Trachtenberg