Raffles, charity bingo rebounding from pandemic | News

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BOSTON — Bingos, raffles and other charitable games took a big hit during the pandemic, but a new state report shows the nonprofit businesses are rebounding as churches and other venues have resumed normal operations.

The Lottery Commission says organizations with charitable gaming licenses reported $37.9 million in gross revenues in 2022, a nearly 50% increase compared to $25.4 million a year before.

The biggest increase was in charitable bingo games, which reported about $12.7 million in revenue in 2022, compared to $6.8 million the prior year.

Raffles reported $16.1 million in proceeds last year, compared to $13.7 million a year before.

Charity game ticket sales grossed $9.1 million compared to $4.9 million in 2021.

“The ability for charities to operate their charitable gaming events resulted in charitable gaming licensees throughout the commonwealth seeing an overall increase of $12.5 million in gross revenues over 2021, a 49% increase,” Mark Bracken, the Lottery’s interim executive director, said in a statement.

The revenues are still far behind what they were before the pandemic, when charitable games drummed up gross receipts of an average of $50 million a year.

Most of the games are based in churches or other houses of worship, which were closed for much of 2020 amid restrictions to stop the spread of the virus. Other churches kept remote services in place well into 2021, which further restricted their ability to host games.

In 2020, the Lottery reported $19.1 million in gross revenues in 2020, compared to $55.9 million a year before the pandemic.

A portion of the games’ proceeds also goes to the state and local aid for communities, which saw a decline in funds as a result.

Charitable games generated only $749,738 for the state’s coffers and for $117,465 local aid in 2020, according to the Lottery. That’s compared to $1.7 million for the state’s general fund and $608,483 for cities and towns in the year for the pandemic.

But as the charitable games rebound, state and local coffers are also seeing an increase in tax revenue that could be used for general budgetary purposes.

In 2022, charitable games drummed up $1.1 million for the state’s general fund and $456,987 for cities and towns.

Peabody stands to get $88,169 from last year’s receipts, compared to $25,061 in 2021. Lynn stands to get $30,000 from last year’s receipts.

The lottery’s report pointed out that a number of towns — including Lawrence, Haverhill, Salem and Newburyport — have approved charitable gaming but are currently not offered the games. Other towns such as Wenham, West, Newberry, and Rockport have voted against offering bingo and other charitable games.

The bulk of the proceeds from charitable games go back to organizations that host them, which in turn provide scholarships for students, help families in need, and fund activities for veterans and youth, among other ventures.

Revenues from the games last year generated $12.3 million for charitable organizations, compared to $9.5 million in the prior year.

Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at cwade@cnhinews.com.

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