In 2008, charitable gambling in Minnesota contributed the lowest amount of money of any year since 1985.
This year, in an attempt to reverse the trend of declining contributions, Allied Charities of Minnesota pushed legislation that would have allowed charitable organizations to set up electronic bingo sites in bars and clubs.
The legislation died when, after opposition from the Fond Du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in Cloquet, the bill wouldn't be heard in the Senate.
King Wilson, executive director of Allied Charities of Minnesota, doesn't want that to happen again. He's spent the past month traveling across Minnesota to bring his message to Allied Charities of Minnesota members.
On Wednesday, King was at the VFW in Brainerd, where about 30 bar owners and charitable gambling managers listened to his message about electronic bingo.
King said increased revenues from electronic bingo would allow the charitable gaming industry to reduce and reform the gambling tax structure.
"That's why we really need to look at this because we need some new dollars," King said. "I think it's still going to be good in our market. It's never been done in charitable gambling market. I think the potential is unbelievable and I think it's the only chance we have get some tax reform and relief."
King said legislation allowing electronic bingo will be submitted again in 2010. He hopes the key this time around will be charitable organizations and its members will be pressing legislators to pass the bill.
"I can't pass it unless I get help from you and your organizations," he said.
The electronic bingo would feature a touch screen, where players would pay a certain amount, such as 25 cents, to play a game, with up to 12 games available on one machine option King presented. The games would be linked together across the state and payouts would be a percentage of the total money played.
Charitable organizations that have pull tab sites at bars have seen their revenue, and in return the amounts they contribute, decrease with the state-wide smoking ban and the economic recession. Dave Meyer, commander of the VFW in Brainerd, said clubs like his would need to consider electronic bingo.
"You get so many requests every month but the funds aren't there anymore like were years ago. We're reduced to just a few we support," Meyer said. "It just gets to be frustrating when don't have the funds there."
Added Chuck Hanson, the VFW's gambling manager: The sole purpose we have charitable gambling is basically to donate money to charitable organizations. This is one more way to do that."
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.
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