Media bingo could be ticket for charities

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Media bingo could be ticket for charities
By Elaine Della-Mattia

Charities in Sault Ste. Marie could establish their own media bingo with city council's approval.

Media bingo, such at Sudbury's TV bingo, does not require an Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario licence because the maximum prize board per event must be under $5,500.

AGCO spokesperson Lisa Murray said a municipality could issue its own TV bingo licence by following AGCO's Lottery Licensing Policy Manual. That would involve determining which organizations could participate in the fundraising events and licensing them through the city's tax and licensing division.

Community benefit must be a prime consideration.

Media bingo is operated through the public media, on radio or TV broadcasts or in the newspaper. Broadcast bingos are usually 30 minutes to one hour long.

Tickets are sold by local merchants and winners must call a local telephone number to register wins, or present their cards to the licensee to collect their prizes.

At its last meeting, city council asked for a staff report on the appropriateness of permitting the sale of Saturday night bingo cards to residents in Sault Ste. Marie, especially to seniors, the disabled and shut-ins who could use the bingo as a form of entertainment.

The report is also to consider how local charities might participate and benefit from the sale of the bingo cards.

City commissioner of finance and treasurer Bill Freiburger said bingo cards for Sudbury's half-hour game show cannot be sold in the Sault because local charities don't benefit from the game.

For local charities to get involved in Sudbury's TV Bingo, they'd have to appear before Sudbury's city council and seek approval through their municipal licensing system, a move that would be difficult because that would take away money from Sudbury charities, Murray said.

The better option for the Sault and its charities would be to establish a similar operation locally.

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Scott Reid, president of the defunct Bridge View Bingo hall, said establishing a TV bingo game in Sault Ste. Marie has never been examined before, but he's begun looking into the idea.

"We're just starting to look at it now and check out the licensing requirements and if it would benefit local charities," he said.

In December, Bridge View Bingo closed its doors for good, leaving charities out in the cold to find other ways to raise funds for their organization.

Charities have faced a rocky road since Greenbelt Bingo closed its doors in June 2006.

Greenbelt cited non-smoking legislation as the reason for dramatically decreasing player turnout.

Two restructuring attempts, including establishing a new hall near the downtown area and on a bus route, failed to work.

In their heyday, bingos provided thousands of dollars to charities, but recently they have barely broken even.
 

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