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AUSTIN (AP) – More than 30 years after being created to raise money, charity bingo is facing renewed scrutiny across Texas for not living up to its promise.
The Texas Lottery Commission has yanked the licenses of fewer than a dozen bingo operators statewide, the Austin American-Statesman reported. The state can revoke a bingo license if the operator doesn’t demonstrate that its operations are creating proceeds for charity.
More than 600 organizations sponsored bingo games in 2015, but the move by the lottery commission appears to be the first time the state has stripped the licenses of underperforming bingo operators.
Charity bingo was first created in 1980 by a statewide vote, but it has faced declining popularity amid the rise of other gambling options. The number of licensed operators fell from 937 in 2010 to 623 last year.
The smaller number of operators still brought in $740 million in receipts in 2014, but the amount actually going to charity continues to decline. Charitable distributions fell in 2014 to just under $26 million.
Experts say bingo operators have to offer big prizes to retain and attract new players. Some jackpots can account for as much as 90 percent of the total receipts of a game.
In San Antonio, a nonprofit group raising money for new classrooms for a charter school began a bingo game. According to financial records, bingo brought in $1,100 in the fall of 2012 — and nothing afterward.
“It didn’t give us any positive net income whatsoever,” said Arturo Suarez, principal of the charter school.
A Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Austin had 108 bingo games last year, with an annual profit of $395. It has not made enough money to make any charitable contributions in recent months, said Ron Dorsey, Post 856’s quartermaster.
Some bingo games still do make big money for charities. One game at a major bingo hall in Austin made more than $150,000 for Imagine Art, a nonprofit group that gives disabled people art instruction and studio space.
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