Charity Bingo and Smoking Bans

It is a well-established fact that bingo and smoking bans do not mix. When the national smoking ban was imposed in the UK in 2007, dozens of local bingo halls were forced to close, and hundreds of jobs were lost. Not surprisingly, online bingo sites benefitted from the exodus of players from live bingo halls. During the two years that followed the imposition of the ban, many online bingo operators reported an 80% increase in player numbers.

In the United States, bingo is a major source of income for charities. In many states bingo halls are exempt from smoking bans and so far there is no national ban in the US. In Arlington there is a fierce debate about smoking and bingo halls. One Arlington bingo hall reported that about 85% of its bingo players are smokers. The Arlington Citizens for Clean Air (ACCA) has asked the city council to extend the ban to bingo halls and ban smoking in all public buildings. The Existing ordinance includes a ban on smoking in restaurants and some public buildings. Currently bingo halls are exempt. Unfortunately for local charities the city council is taking the anti-smoking group’s request seriously.

If the ban is extended to bingo halls, local charities will be the real losers. One day a week the local Moose hall hosts charity bingo games that usually generate about $1,000 for various charities in Arlington. The Moose lodge loves hosting the games, players have a good time and local charities fill their coffers. Lauren Stubbs of the Moose Lodge said that smoking and gambling just naturally go together. Stubbs also said the Moose lodge is the friendliest bingo hall in Arlington. Moose Lodge bingo chairman, Tim Warner, says that if the request by the anti-smoking group is successful the bingo games will probably end and local charities will be the real losers.

David Fusco, Executive Director for the Arlington Citizens for Clean Air, says he does not believe that smoking is a part of any business. He also seems uninterested in the damage his group’s request will cause for charities. Most likely Fusco has never attended one of the bingo games at the Moose lodge. Fusco views smoking as a health hazard and is willing to impose his views on players who do not share them. Several players have indicated that if smoking is banned they will attend games in surrounding towns where smoking is legal during games. Hopefully the Arlington city council will consider the effect a smoking ban would have on local charities.