There’s been plenty of noise in Ohio this year concerning the future launch of sports betting.
Meanwhile, another form of gambling – e-Bingo – arrived on April 1 with little to no fanfare.
E-Bingo is an electronic bingo gaming platform being played inside veterans and fraternal organization locations across the state. The games are not considered slot machines, which are found in Ohio’s four casinos. They’re also not video lottery terminals, which are available in Ohio’s seven racinos.
They’re considered the electronic version of the paper pull-tab bingo games long available in Ohio’s veterans and fraternal halls, where proceeds from such gambling have long been used to help fund their charities.
Just over a decade ago, the Ohio Veterans and Fraternal Charitable Coalition agreed on a deal with a Columbus-based company that would install electronic raffle games across the state.
However, that move was contested in 2013 by then-Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. Mike is now the state’s governor, and he called for the shutdown of the devices because he considered them slot machines that were only legal in casinos.
The veteran’s groups won an injunction to deny the shutdown. This led to a nine-year court fight over the debate until last January. The Ohio Supreme Court dismissed the case after Ohio’s Attorney General’s Office announced a new regulatory model for e-Bingo.
New game in town
Approximately 900 veterans and fraternal posts exist in Ohio and are eligible to house e-Bingo machines. Many have had them installed already, while others are waiting for theirs.
ARROW E-BINGO IS NOW PLAYING IN OHIO! Stop by your local Veteran's or Fraternal post and ask for games from Arrow International – the only Electronic Instant Bingo manufacturer in Ohio!
— Arrow International (@arrowinternInc) April 4, 2022
AMVETS Post 48 in Tiffin had three e-Bingo machines installed Tuesday morning. Post 48 trustee Jim Speaker said the post’s officers decided to have the e-Bingo machines placed in the hall after having the older machines removed that were ruled illegal.
He said it took three weeks after ordering them before they were finally installed.
Speaker said the decision to have the new machines installed came down to a simple deduction.
“It was the officers’ decision,” he explained, “to make money.”
Bingo as a charity game
Any form of bingo is considered charitable gaming, and veterans halls receive 65% of the total revenue from the e-Bingo games. A portion of that is allocated to charitable projects.
Ohioans wagered $692.5 million via charitable gaming in 2021, or just 2 percent of the $27.6 billion they risked overall on different options in the legal gambling market.
The information is according to a report from WCPO citing state figures. In comparison, Ohioans wagered $8.6 billion playing casino slots and $12.8 billion playing VLTs in 2021.
Yet, Speaker is optimistic that the new e-Bingo machines will help increase Post 48’s total charitable contributions.
Cincinnati American Legion Post 513 club manager Heidi Whitaker is also expecting the installation of three of the machines this week to help its charitable causes.
An officer at the Fraternal Order of Eagles 2293, who chose not to share his name, said 10 e-Bingo machines were installed at the Georgetown location three days after the launch date.
They replaced the old machines that were considered illegal. The officer also said the new machines have been well-received by the members during the first month.
“We like the new machines,” he said. “They play good and our people are happy with them.”
Possible gambling concern
The latest gambling option in Ohio adds one more manner in which Ohioans can find themselves experiencing gambling addiction problems.
“It’s a pretty substantial expansion,” Derek Longmeier, Problem Gambling Network of Ohio executive director, told WCPO regarding e-Bingo’s arrival. “The more opportunity there is to gamble in Ohio, the more Ohioans who will gamble, and the more Ohioans who will be impacted.”
Not everyone agrees that the new machines are likely to increase gambling addiction problems.
“In the past, we had people like that,” said Speaker, noting that Post 48 also houses lottery machines. “There’s not anyone that goofy around here that would go and spend their entire paycheck.”
Whitaker also believes the addition of the e-Bingo machines at her post in Cincinnati will not cause any gambling harm to members.
“Not with our people,” she said.
Nonetheless, according to the Ohio Lottery, 4% of the adult population may have a gambling problem.
E-Bingo before sports betting
This is the year in which Ohio is looking to join neighboring states Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia in offering sports betting as a gambling option.
The Ohio Casino Control Commission, which is responsible for establishing sports wagering in the state, is in the process of welcoming stakeholder comment on draft applications for sports betting licenses.
Plenty more work needs to be done by the commission before anyone in the state will have an opportunity to place a bet on any of Ohio’s sports teams. Two groups of sports betting licenses will be accepted by the commission. The first group begins, June 15-July 15, followed by the second group, July 15-Aug. 15.
The sports betting platform is not expected to be up and running until the end of the year. The law states that it must be launched by Jan. 1, 2023.
In the meantime, e-Bingo has launched quietly under the noise of all the chatter about the eventual launch of sports betting.