Thieves Who Steal from the Needy Turn Charity Bingo into Nasty Business

When people think games of chance, they most often think of things like poker or video slots, but one of the most popular games around is actually good old bingo.

One thing bingo has over many other games is the social aspect. Bingo halls are not just places where one goes to play bingo, but also social spots.

No wonder then that bingo is the game of choice for many charities and similar groups to fundraise money for various causes. Even bingo halls who operate for profit will have a collection box somewhere raising money for a worthy cause.

The relationship between bingo and charity…

is a long and fruitful one. It all started in the 1950s when the state of Colorado legalized the game for charity purposes.

A local pastor by the name of Charles H. Hagus sensed an opportunity to help his struggling church which had been going through decades of bad finances.

He quickly instituted Bingo Nights where the congregation would come together to play the game and possibly with a small token prize. More importantly, the money that was collected would go to the church so it could fix its financial situation.

The bingo nights were a complete success and very quickly the church was able to grow and purchase new real estate.

The blueprint for charity bingo hasn’t changed much in the intervening years. Charities and similar organizations put out bingo nights or casino nights featuring bingo. Players pay money to be able to participate in the hope of winning a prize while all or most of the proceeds go to a cause.

Bingo for charity is played around the world but is most popular in the United States and in the UK. In the UK, the prizes are rarely cash but most often tokens like teapots and toasters.

Over the years, fundraising with bingo nights has proven to be a great way to get money to worthy causes, campaigns, charities like hospitals, and even as a means of a community collecting money for a much needed public work.

This is different from casino bingo games, where the venue keeps the money as a profit and is also regulated differently.

The popularity of bingo…

really comes down to the social aspect of the experience. Unlike a raffle or a lottery where participants buy a ticket a then wait to see if they’ve won, bingo is much more dynamic.

As each number is called out there is palpable excitement with players feeling one step closer to the goal. And it happens in a hall or a church or some other social space where everyone is doing the same thing.

There is, of course, the competitive element as well, as participants race to be the first to complete a line and claim a win.

Unlike other games, Bingo has an announcer who can work to animate the crowd and keep proceedings engaging and fun.

It hardly matters that prizes in charity bingo are rarely that great. It’s the excitement of chasing the prize that makes people show up again and again.

And when you can say it’s all for a good cause, it’s a real win-win situation even if you technically end up losing by never completing a winning line.

The popularity of this game is undeniable with reports saying about 5 percent of men and 10 percent of women in the United States love to play bingo and play it regularly.

One interesting thing is that despite stereotypes of the game being a pastime for old folks, about 30 percent of players are below the age of 35.

The game of bingo itself…

is very old and derives from the Italian lottery which dates all the way back to the sixteenth century. The modern version that is played today has been established in the early twentieth century by an American toymaker and game designer Edwin S. Lowe. 

Finding a group of people at a traveling carnival in Atlanta eagerly playing a game called Beano, he immediately brought it back to New York where his friends fell in love with it. It’s not exactly known how “Beano” became “Bingo” but there is an anecdote stating one of Lowe’s friends shouted out the word “bingo!” following a win and it just stuck.

Since then, hundreds of thousands have enjoyed this game both in land-based venues and increasingly online where bingo also retains its ties with charity.

Sometimes things go wrong though…

as bingo halls can sometimes be targets for robbery. Like any place where money is handled, there have been cases of armed robbers stealing money from these venues or from collection boxes.

One popular venue in the UK learned about this the hard way when a bingo hall thief brazenly absconded with not just one but two different collection boxes effectively taking money away from two different charities and their causes.

The events took place on September 11th and 14th when the man, Michael David Holland, decided he would take from sick children and the elderly and steal the collection boxes for Great Ormond Street Hospital, a children’s hospital relying on charity and donations and St. Mary’s Hospice, an organization providing comfort and help to people with life-shortening illnesses or long-term conditions and their families.

He was found out when the CCTV footage was examined clearly showing him stuffing the box under his coat and walking out after hanging out in the slot section of the hall and staking out his mark.

Stealing from people in need didn’t work out for Mr. Holland who got around 40 pounds in total from the two boxes belonging to the charities and also 8 weeks of jail-time.

The presiding judge had some harsh words for the thief and anyone else who thinks stealing from charities is a good idea. He called the actions of the collection box robber “callous offenses that impact not only on the charities but those that they seek to help.”

Ultimately the crime did not pay…

and served as a warning to anyone who would deign to steal from the needy and try to abuse the longstanding tradition of charity bingo.

Regardless of these unscrupulous people, bingo and charity still go hand in hand and many organizations rely on proceeds from this fun and engaging game to fund important activities that help communities and individuals in need.

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