Bingo charities say online bingo becoming a problem
SAN JUAN, Texas (KVEO) — Bingo halls statewide are asking for help against games being played on Facebook.
Texas Charitable Bingo is annually a half-billion-dollar industry, bringing value dollars to local charities.
Since the pandemic began, those charity dollars have dropped drastically because of Bingo bandits.
When the pandemic hit many halls shut down completely, that’s when officials say they saw a rise in online games being played.
“So people started looking for alternative things and one of those alternative things is that we found is online Facebook games,” says Tom Stewart, Executive Director, Texas Charity Advocates.
Annually about $32 million is generated for Texas Charities. Texas Charity Advocates which represents about a third of all licensed charitable bingo halls in the state, says it’s hard to measure the losses but they are adding up.
“You start eating into that whatever for it may be, particularly from illegal competition that puts a squeeze on those local charities, and it diminishes the value that they can have and provide in local communities all across Texas,” says Stewart.
Statewide bingo revenues for charities will drop about 25 percent, while one local hall here in the Rio Grande Valley is reporting a 50 percent drop.
“It’s obviously being exacerbated by the online gambling that we’re seeing on Facebook, where people are playing bingo online on Facebook. They are opening pull-tabs on Facebook,” says Richard Bunkley, Chief Operation Officer, Littleton Group.
Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Rio Grande Valley is one of those charities which has seen donations drop.
“These proceeds are going to non-profits and we charities are really hurting right now. Not just Make-A-Wish, all of us,” says Ava Sandlin, Executive Director, Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Rio Grande Valley.
Local bingo halls have tried to offset the loss in revenues by creating drive-in bingo, and recently held a raffle for a car. This is all in an effort to keep money coming in for charities.
Texas Charity Advocates say the loss in revenues is a hurt to the community, and want to bring the issue to the attention of Facebook and local law enforcement.
“To say you know this is an issue, this is a problem help us try to solve it,” says Stewart.
“What I would like to see is for Facebook to shut down the online illegal gambling, illegal bingo, illegal pull tabs, or have the Texas Lottery Commission step in and help Texas Charities, protect them from on-line illegal competitors,” says Bunkley.
KVEO reached out to Facebook, who said in a statement these groups go against company policy and they have recently removed some pages.
We are looking out for content, Groups and Pages, that violate our Community Standards all the time. We rely on automation as well as a team of 15,000 human content reviewers.
Complaints have also been filed with the Texas Lottery Commission, which oversees Texas Charitable Bingo. We reached out to see if anything was being done to help, they said in a statement.
The Charitable Bingo Operations Division is reviewing cases that pertain to online bingo. As those cases remain under review, we cannot comment further on them at this time.Lauren Callahan, Texas Lottery Commission Spokesperson
The commission also says the law does not allow for bingo to be conducted online and unlicensed bingo is considered a felony.
We also reached out to Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez to see if anything could be done locally.
Rodriguez says his office has heard more about this type of activity, and he agreed to an interview, but several attempts to schedule the interview were unsuccessful.
“If people see it, report it to Facebook. I mean you know hell hath no fury like a bingo player scorned. People have more power than they think,” says Stewart.
“If that doesn’t work maybe the Lotter Commission could allow charities in Texas to do the same thing, maybe broadcast a bingo game on Facebook Live. It seems like that might be an option if you can’t beat them join them,” says Bunkley.
Bingo officials say there is an effort statewide by lobbying groups to reach out to Facebook and the Texas Lottery Commission to try and get a handle on the problem.