EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 11, 2012

Charity gaming bringing in less money

Slow economy, competition cited as factors

By John Toole jtoole@eagletribune.com
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — New Hampshire charities are seeing less revenue from charity gaming.

The state gaming commission last week delivered a report to the governor and Executive Council, showing charities took in $11.5 million in the fiscal year ending June 30, down $1.5 million from $13 million.

Paul M. Kelley, director of the New Hampshire Racing and Charitable Gaming Commission, speculates the down economy and competition are key factors.

“There is a super saturation of gambling outlets they can go to now,” Kelley said.

The competition is not just geographical. Some of it is virtual.

Kelley said once a month he gets a call from someone complaining about losing money playing blackjack online. The problem for the complaining party: That’s illegal, Kelley said.

Inside the numbers are gambling trends.

Sales were up for Lucky 7 tickets and games of chance, but down for bingo.

The report said Lucky 7 sales, a pull-tab game, totaled $60.9 million, up $300,000.

Bingo sales totaled $15.9 million, down $3 million.

Sales for games of chance, such as poker, totaled $79 million, up $3.2 million.

“Bingo has been on a downward trend for a number of years,” Rockingham Park president and general manager Ed Callahan said.

Callahan speculates the reasons could be the prize limits in New Hampshire versus neighboring states, restrictions on smoking and the emergence of online gaming.

“We used to operate bingo five or six nights. Now, it is three nights a week,” Callahan said.

“Interest in bingo is waning,” Kelley said. “Typically, it is a mature audience.”

Betting on games of chance is up.

“That could be an anomaly or people are getting interested in games of chance,” Kelley said.

The state estimates about 500 charities are involved in charity gaming in New Hampshire. About 40 participate in gaming at Rockingham Park, including the Kiwanis and the Boys & Girls Club of Salem.

Michael Centor, chief professional officer at the Boys & Girls Club, said the charity gaming means a lot to the group’s mission.

“We feel very fortunate to have the numbers we have,” Centor said.

The organization budgets $100,000 to $125,000 from gaming revenue, about 8 percent of its annual budget. Centor said that number has been pretty consistent.

But there is a worry: What happens when Massachusetts open casinos and if New Hampshire fails to respond?

“We’re fearful of losing that stream of revenue,” Centor said.

Kelley acknowledges that could be a blow for New Hampshire charities.

“When Massachusetts casinos get online, that will be detrimental to charities, especially in the southern part of the state,” Kelley said.

That is why recent legislative efforts to allow casino gaming at Rockingham Park have included language aimed at protecting charity revenues, he said.

Simulcast wagering on races, meanwhile, fell more than $10 million from $87.6 million to $76.8 million.

Rockingham Park is one of two New Hampshire venues for simulcast racing.

State revenue from simulcast racing at The Rock totaled $730,054, down slightly from $737,756.