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January 28. 2014 5:57PM

Bingo seeks boost with simulcast of jackpots

CONCORD — Bingo hall operators and charities want the state to allow them to simulcast large jackpot games to other facilities within the state to increase attendance and earnings.

Attendance at bingo, which used to be the foundation of many organizations’ fundraising, is declining, according to supporters. Drawing more people to events will help, they told the Senate Ways and Means Committee Tuesday.

The committee held a public hearing on Senate Bill 242, which tightens the laws covering bingo, but particularly “coverall bingo games” where the winner has to cover all the numbers on a card to win.

The coverall games are rolled over when no one wins within the set number of draws and jackpots can be as high as $85,000, said lobbyist Michael McLaughlin, who represents Community Bingo Center of Manchester.

He said when jackpots are that high, it “drives foot traffic” to the events and charities can make a lot of money on the Lucky 7 tickets they sell. Bingo is “a loss leader” he said, the charities make their money on the Lucky 7 tickets.

McLaughlin said the simulcast would “drive foot traffic” to the smaller more rural halls.

Under the plan proposed by Sen. Andy Hosmer, D-Laconia, the progressive coverall games would be simulcast from the large bingo halls in Manchester, Nashua and Portsmouth to those in smaller communities.

He said the technology exists today to do the simulcasts, which would only be within New Hampshire/ It is being done now in Canada.

Jan DiMarzio, a bingo hall manager for Community Bingo Center, said the coverall games bring people to the bingo halls, noting when a recent jackpot topped $80,000, there were 200 to 300 people when the coverall game was held, but once the jackpot was won, only about 50 people were there.

Under state law, charities can hold bingo nights 10 days a month, but can host table games only 10 days a year.

Racing and Charitable Gaming Commission Executive Director Paul Kelley said about $40 million to $50 million is wagered every year in state bingo halls, while bingo and Lucky 7s generate about $7 million for charities.

The commission voted 6-0 last year to allow simulcasts, Hosmer said.

Wendy Lane, from the Wolverine Youth Football Association in Derry, also supported simulcast, noting her organization serves between 100 and 150 middle school students. She said the number of people going to bingo has declining significantly.

The committee will meet Tuesday and discuss what it wants to do about simulcast for coverall bingo games and SB 242.

grayno@unionleader.com


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