June 26, 2016

Partly sunny

Nonprofit groups fear casinos will hurt fundraising

CLEVELAND — Hundreds of nonprofit groups in Ohio that depend on money collected through bingo and charity poker fear the opening of four new casinos will further diminish their primary fundraising source.

Millions of dollars are at stake, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported Sunday. The most recent available data shows nonprofit groups got $850 million through bingo from 2005 to 2009, and charity poker raised several million dollars.

The effect on nonprofits is among the factors being considered by two gaming consultants hired by first-term Republican Gov. John Kasich.

“Frankly, I don’t know how all-volunteer organizations can compete with all the bells and whistles of a casino,” said Dianne DePasquale-Hagerty, director of Medina Creative Housing, a nonprofit group that raised tens of thousands of dollars through a Cleveland charity poker festival.

In Ohio, the Veterans of Foreign Wars charity uses revenue from bingo at VFW halls for several million dollars in expenses, such as $1,300 paid for a homeless Army recruit to stay at a motel until leaving for boot camp.

VFW leaders are among those who might have good reason to be concerned that charitable gaming in the state may not fare well once the casinos are up and running. Parts of others states, including neighboring Pennsylvania, have seen some decreases in charitable gaming after casinos opened.

And then there’s the decline in bingo, which hasn’t caught on with younger folks and isn’t being used for fundraising by as many Catholic churches as it used to be. Spending on bingo in Ohio dropped 25 percent over the past five years and totaled $6.3 billion in that time, the newspaper said.

In North Olmsted, bingo profits used to account for about half of the budget at St. Clarence Catholic Church, but that’s now less than one-third. The man who has run the games for 25 years predicts they could end in less than a decade because people won’t be playing, whether there’s a casino in Cleveland or not.

Several leaders of Ohio nonprofit groups say they expect that small charities without workers dedicated specifically to development or fundraising will be hit the hardest by the effects of the new casinos.