Charitable gaming — which includes bingos, raffles and pull-tabs — raises only about $4 million a year for the state, through fees charged to game operators.
But it raises millions of dollars for churches and non-profits.
Ed Feigenbaum, who produces the Indiana Gaming Insight newsletter, said charitable gaming made more than $500 million in gross revenues every year from 1997 to 2009.
The plunge started in 2010. By last year, the 3,200 charities and churches licensed for gambling pulled in about $450 million — dramatically down from the high-water mark of $585 million in 2000.
Bingo alone generated $425 million in gross revenues for non-profits in 2007. By last year, that figure had dropped to $187 million. The decline is due in part to tougher rules imposed by the state, which have decreased the number of bingo operators.
Butch Snook, of the American Legion Post 11 in Lafayette, feels the impact. Working with a neighboring post, his organization has raised money through bingo to donate about $100,000 a year to various causes, from the Boy Scouts to American Legion Baseball.
That’s getting harder to do, he said.
“It’s imperative that we get some changes made to the system,” Snook said.
Feigenbaum said the drop in charitable gaming parallels a decline in casino gaming.
He recently reported that Indiana’s casino tax revenues are falling faster than expected — almost 15 percent over the past six months. That follows four years of falling revenues.
The trend hits state coffers hard. Last year, the State of Indiana collected about $752 million in gaming tax revenues, down from nearly $1 billion five years ago.
Feigenbaum is convinced Hoosiers are still shaking off a tough recession.
“Gaming in all forms in Indiana is facing competitive and economic pressures,” he said. “There is a lot of competition for discretionary dollars and fewer of those discretionary dollars to go around.”
Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Maureen.Hayden