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Kevin Smith

Ohio Charity Sells Instant Bingo Tickets Online

5 November 2001

Seeking new ways to raise funds for its effort to build good ballparks and run top-notch leagues, the Firestone Park Athletic Association is breaking new ground in the United States.

The non-profit group is believed to be the first charity in the nation to use Internet gaming as fund-raising tool. The group's site,, was launched late last month and lets players purchase instant bingo, or "pull tabs," in exchange for a donation.

The group, based in Akron, Ohio, has a long-standing place as an operator of brick-and-mortar bingo halls in the Akron and Cleveland areas.

The site was launched a year after its conception and after the group was given legal advice that the activity wouldn't put them in jeopardy, said the FPAA's lawyer, Don George.

The group consulted legal advice in addition to George, but decided to go ahead with the plans. Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery has since publicly said the site is in compliance with Ohio law.

The venture could fill FPAA's coffers nicely. According to figures released by state officials, Ohio residents gamble more than $1 billion a year on pull tabs.

George said it will be a challenge to convert conventional pull-tab players to an Internet site offering the same game and payouts. But he feels it can be done.

"It is a target audience, that is for sure," he said. "If the site is marketed right in bingo magazines and in the bingo halls themselves, there could be a lot of players who will want to do it."

The site has been live for three weeks, and George said it is too early to tell whether the concept will take off or not. The timing of the launch wasn't the best, he said.

"With everything that has happened in the last two months, people just aren't playing games like they used to," George said. "We are seeing a 50 percent drop in business with the bingo halls, and that is a significant amount. The drop is also being felt online."

George said he doesn't agree with the philosophy of some law enforcement officials who claim letting charities go online will open a Pandora's box of gambling woes. He also said steps will be taken to monitor problem gamblers who visit the site.

The site allows players to spend as much as $100 and as little as $10. The site contains four games that mimic a box of instant bingo tickets. For $1 a bet, players of the "Bow & Arrows" game have a chance at winnings ranging from $2 to $100 among 2,199 tickets. Winners receive checks within a week, George said.

The site is set up to only take donations for FPAA but George said if the concept takes root the group would align itself with other charitable partners throughout Ohio. The site is legally allowed to take play from players throughout Ohio, although the FPAA may not be well known outside of the greater Cleveland area.

Although Montgomery gave her approval to the site, there still is some question as to how the federal government will view the site. George said by taking play from only Ohio residents and steering clear of minors, the site's actions should be out of the federal government's reach.

Considering the economic and political issues of the day, George said there is no target number of players or revenue for the site.

"We want to bring in as much as we can," he said.

Ohio Charity Sells Instant Bingo Tickets Online is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith