Nova Scotia

Bingo supporters fear last call

A Nova Scotia group that promotes bingo says there will be fewer winners if the government doesn't step in to help the dying game.

A Nova Scotia group that promotes bingo says there will be fewer winners if the government doesn't step in to help the dying game.

Halifax's Metro Bingo Association said there's a lot more at stake than lucky numbers.

"They raise money for fire trucks, wheelchairs, seeing-eye dogs. They're very, very big into putting money into the food banks, minor hockey leagues, soccer leagues — all this type of stuff," said spokesman Larry Farrell.

"It's a real shame because they're getting to the point that they're dying out."

Farrell has been involved with bingo fundraisers for decades. Lately, he's seen a sharp drop in the number of dauber-wielding players.

Pam Vaters, who plays bingo several times a month, agrees the halls are getting emptier.

"It's a lot of fun. It's a great way to spend an evening. If I were to go downtown and spend $40 or $50, I'd have nothing to show for it after, except maybe a headache in the morning," she said.

Like Farrell, Vaters worries that bingo won't survive another generation.

Charity bingos across Canada have been hit hard by competition from casinos and online gaming, as well as by smoking bans.

In Ontario, revenue at charity bingos has dropped from about $250 million a year to about $50 million over the past 10 years. About 3,000 charities rely on bingo for some of their revenue, down from 6,000 a decade ago.

Farrell said the Nova Scotia government must do more to help the game draw a new crowd in the province. He wants it to allow electronic bingo devices and let organizers give out free cards to draw in new players.

If not, he fears the bingo bonanza could be over.

"This is really not about the game of bingo itself. It's more about the good that these charitable fundraisers do all over the province and have been for many, many years," Farrell said.

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