Ohio bingo profits dropping

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DAYTON, Ohio (AP) -- Profits generated by Ohio charities on bingo games have dropped steadily in recent years, according to state statistics.

Charities playing bingo generated profits of more than $100 million last year -- more than any other state, according to the Ohio Attorney General's Office. But revenue has dropped annually since peaking in 2005.

The economic downturn, as well as new casinos and racinos opening, have bitten into bingo profits, the Dayton Daily News (http://bit.ly/1cw0FzH ) reported Monday. Internet cafes have also hurt, and officials say they are pleased the state has cracked down on them. A law that went into effect in October essentially closed more than 600 of the unregulated gambling businesses.

"We weathered the casinos," said Patty O'Connell, who runs a bingo parlor in Dayton. "It was really the Internet cafes that knocked us for a loop. They were closed on a Monday and we played Wednesday, and we saw people we haven't seen for ages."

Around 1,700 nonprofits use bingo to raise money. Most operations remain profitable, but some have closed in recent years or are scrambling to pay bills.

Ohio bingo games took in $855 million in 2012 and turned a profit of $106 million. But those numbers pale in comparison with 2005, when state bingo operations logged revenues of $1.4 billion and took in $196 million in profits.

Traditional bingo, with its set pots that max out at $6,000, has become a loss leader at many halls. Revenue from instant bingo pull tabs, though, can make the operation profitable.

For example, O'Connell said one of her most popular instant games comes in a box that includes 2,400 tickets (sold for $1 each). Prizes total $1,992 and the tickets cost $79, leaving $329 for the charity.

"You couldn't make it without the tear-off tickets -- and they love to buy their tickets," said Ron Slusher, president of the Miami Valley Warhawks Baseball Club, which holds bingo games three nights a week in the Dayton suburb of Moraine.

The decline in bingo proceeds has also meant a drop in revenue to the state, which began regulating bingo games in 1976. Ohio took in $4 million in fees in 2006. Last year, it took in $2.5 million.

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Information from: Dayton Daily News, http://www.daytondailynews.com