Raffles, charity bingo shrink during pandemic  

File photo The Massachusetts Lottery Commission says bingo revenues in 2020 were only about 19.8 percent of those in the previous year. 

BOSTON — Bingos, raffles and other charitable games took a big hit during the pandemic, with proceeds plummeting last year, according to a new state report.

The Lottery Commission says organizations with charitable gaming licenses reported $19.1 million in gross revenues in 2020, compared to $55.9 million a year before.

The biggest hit was to bingo games, which reported about $4.4 million in revenue in 2020, compared to $22.2 million the prior year.

Raffles reported $12.4 million in proceeds last year, compared to $21.4 million a year before.

Charity game ticket sales grossed $2.3 million compared to $12.1 million in 2019.

In a letter accompanying the report, Michael Sweeney, the Lottery's executive director, attributed the "substantial" decline in revenue for charitable games directly to the coronavirus pandemic.

Most of the games are based in churches or other houses of worship, which were closed amid restrictions to stop the spread of the virus.

Many churches are still meeting remotely, which further restricts their ability to raise money by hosting the charitable games.

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

In 2019, charitable games drummed up $1.7 million for the state's general fund and $608,483 for cities and towns.

Last year they generated only $749,738 for the state's coffers and for $117,465 local aid, according to the lottery's report.

For example, locally, Gloucester stands to get $6,762 from last year's receipts, compared to $27,144 in 2019.

Salem, which received $63,833 from the charitable games in 2019, stands to get $16,857 from last year's receipts.

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 $7.6 million for charitable organizations, compared to $15.4 million in the prior year.

The lack of games also meant less prize money, the report noted. Charitable organizations distributed more than $3.3 million in prizes in 2020 — compared to more than $9 million a year earlier.

Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for The Salem News and its sister newspapers and websites. Email him at cwade@cnhi.com

Trending Video

Recommended for you