Bingo has been played as a charity event for nearly a century now, being the most consistent fund-raising method all across North America. Sure, there are fund-raising events that bring in astonishing sums of money, having nothing to do with Bingo, but they are not held on such a regular basis.
The most notable form of charity Bingo games are those hosted by church halls. In practically every city in the United States lies at least one religious organization that offers “Bingo Night” once a week, open to any and all who wish to take part. Seats are not generally limited to members of the congregation, being a great way to actually inspire and attract more members to the church. For those who participate, however, it is not “donating to a good cause” that keeps them coming back; it’s the thrill and excitement of playing – and anticipation of winning – Bingo!
So who came up with this brilliant idea; taking a popular, wholesome game like Bingo and using it to raise funds? It actually happened very soon after the game of Bingo was marketed in the United States. A toy manufacturer by the name of Edwin Lowe discovered the game – originally termed “Beano” – developing his own materials and giving it the lasting title “Bingo”, in 1929. Only a couple of years later, it became a religiously motivated movement.
A Catholic Priest from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania had the prolific idea to offer Bingo games as a way to raise funds for the church. He had been servicing his congregation from a dilapidated building, as lack of funds prevented the organization from anything more. The priest had gotten wind of the popularity of this new game, and decided to approach Edwin Lowe.
Lowe agreed, and thus Charity Bingo was born. The priest began holding regular Bingo Nights, and it wasn’t long before there was enough money coming in to not only refurbish the dilapidated building, but to build a whole new foundation to hold services.
By 1934 – only 5 years after Bingo had been discovered and marketed as a family game – there were an estimated 10,000+ Bingo games being held each week as charity events across all of North America.
In modern times, church-run Bingo games generally offer small stakes or prizes, guided by the laws and regulations of each state. Some Bingo games offer cash prizes, where others provide material rewards. Often times, the final game of the ‘Bingo Night’ will offer a jackpot prize, considerably larger than all previous prizes of the night, in what is known as a ‘Coverall’ game, requiring every square on the bingo card to be covered.
Many church halls will feed the bingo players at no cost for the duration of the Bingo games, while others collect more money by selling food and drinks. There are even church-run Bingo halls that provide a full bar. Charitable Bingo games have greatly evolved, finding new and more exciting ways to entice participants to purchase Bingo tickets. Whatever the draw for individual players, it is all for a good cause. Such an enjoyable evening would likely be much more expensive elsewhere, so why not lay down a few dollars and have a great time playing Bingo amongst friends.