JACKSON — While charitable gaming in Mississippi has not always been seen as a good thing in light of recent scandals, there is a whole lot more good than bad, according to Doug Tyrone, director of the charitable gaming division of the Mississippi Gaming Commission.
“You’re going to have a few bad apples in anything you do,” Tyrone said. “We hear a lot about the bad things but what we’re trying to do is promote the good.”
Charitable gaming is bingo in the State of Mississippi, and money raised goes to everything from veterans of foreign wars to less fortunate families and children. And while total gross proceeds from bingo operations are down from FY1998 by close to $6,000, more money was raised this year than last. In fact, the amount raised this year was up 5% over last year.
Of the total gross proceeds, this year $17,405,302 is available for charitable use.
There were 112 charitable bingo licensees in Mississippi as of June 30, 2001, four less than last year. Licensees include American Legion Posts, AmVets, B.P.O. Elks Lodge, churches, Knights of Columbus, Moose Lodges and V.F.W. Posts. The Mississippi Gaming Commission’s division of charitable gaming oversees charitable bingo.
Before conducting charitable bingo, an organization must be a 501(c)(3) organization and apply for a license. After an application is submitted to the charitable gaming division, it is reviewed for completeness and goes before the Gaming Commission, which meets monthly.
From that point, three commissioners either approve or do not approve the application.
“It’s a rather interesting business,” Tyrone said of charitable gaming.
According to the Mississippi Gaming Commission, the job of the charitable gaming division is to issue and renew annual state licenses required by law for organizations that conduct bingo games, and for manufacturers, distributors or operators of supplies or equipment for games.
The division also issues and renews licenses for commercial lessors of premises on which bingo games are conducted.
The charitable gaming division assesses and collects fees, denies applications for licensure or license renewal and issues orders for suspension or revocation of licenses, monitors licensees and enforces all provisions of law and regulations that are relative to charitable bingo games. In addition, the charitable gaming division assists local law enforcement agencies in enforcement responsibilities.
Charitable gaming was developed in order to provide funding for services and programs that add value to the lives of local community members. In 1994, 46 out of 50 states and the District of Columbia had some form of legalized charity gambling. Mississippi ranked 7th that year in the total amounts wagered of the 29 states reporting charitable gaming receipts.
Although aware that some organizations have had legal battles with their charitable gaming, Tyrone does not believe the system as a whole has gotten a bad rap.
“I think in the last two years, what has happened is that we’re doing more investigations,” he said. “We’re just looking at them more closely. I think the majority are doing well.”
Tyrone added that he thought charities should feel good about what they are doing with charitable gaming.
“Charitable gaming is about fellowship,” he said. “It’s a social event. So many people enjoy bingo. The same crowds are there almost every night.”
Contact MBJ staff writer Elizabeth Kirkland at firstname.lastname@example.org or (601) 364-1042.