What You Need to Know
- The current regulatory framework currently divides oversight of charitable gaming between the office of the Attorney General, the Lottery and local authorities.
- G.l. c. 10, §§ 37, 38 gives the Lottery exclusive regulatory authority over beano games and charitable game tickets.
- Charitable gambling in Massachusetts contributes approximately $75 million annually to the economy.
- There are four forms of charitable gambling: beano (bingo), charitable gaming tickets, raffles, and bazaars (Casino or Las Vegas nights used as fund raisers).
Charitable Gaming in the Commonwealth
Charitable gaming—gambling in which a portion of the establishment’s profits go to charities or nonprofit organizations—takes its shape in four forms.
Qualified organizations desiring to host a beano game must obtain a license from lottery and the approval of the local mayor and city council or selectman or, in the case of Boston, the Licensing Board.
The largest in terms of wagers is beano, also known as bingo. In 2011, the latest year for which figures are available, people wagered approximately $38.8 million at 199 beano games held in the Commonwealth. Despite its large market share, the number of beano games has been in steady decline over the years.
Charitable Gaming Tickets
The second form, closely allied with beano, is charitable gaming tickets. These tickets are distributed by the Massachusetts Lottery (Lottery) and sold, almost exclusively, at beano games. The tickets typically sell for $1 and are called “pull tabs” because they have tabs on one side which, when opened, show whether or not the ticket-holder has won a cash prize. Like scratch tickets, the cash prizes can be collected instantly from the ticket vendor at the beano game. In 2011, sale of charitable gaming tickets produced gross revenues of $15.7 million, $4.7 million of which was retained by the charities.
Raffles are the third form of charitable gaming. They usually consist of a wide variety of events in which individuals purchase tickets to participate in a blind drawing in which some of the ticket holders will receive a prize. During 2011, raffles grossed $19.6 million, $11.3 million of which was retained by the charities.
Finally, charitable organizations sometimes use bazaars, the statutory name for the “casino or “Las Vegas” nights, for fundraising. Bazaars grossed $1.4 million in 2011, $578,000 of which was retained by the sponsoring charities. The sponsors of the charitable gambling events are organizations that use the proceeds to support their charitable endeavors, including but not limited to churches, veterans groups, civic organizations, and youth groups. In many cases, the charitable gambling revenue generates the bulk of the funding available to the organization for carrying out their charitable works.