The British have an extremely long standing tradition of charitable giving, going back for hundreds of years. Today there are over 180,000 registered charities and around half of all adults in the country donate; this very often comes in the form of fundraising events and activities such as raffles. It is hardly surprising that several online bingo sites have decided to combine fundraising for charity with another grand old British tradition, the game of bingo. But not all charity sites are the same – the arrangements for donating money, and the amount actually donated, can vary wildly.
- Sites which are owned and run by a charity
- Sites which donate a percentage of deposits to charity
- Sites which donate a percentage of profits to charity
- Other schemes
- Non charity sites running charity bingo games
- The future of charity bingo
With a site like this, you can be sure that all the net profits from the operation are actually going to the charity and none are going to line the pockets of the site operator. Clearly this is the gold standard for charity bingo sites but as of Spring 2016, while there have been at least two such bingo sites in the past, currently there are none.
When we first started following charity bingo sites, there was only one site of this kind in the online bingo world, the Irish site Rehab Bingo which at that time was run by Rehab Lotteries, a company within the Rehab Group (an overall not-for-profit organisation). Its purpose is to raise funds (thousands a month) for the group’s charitable activities. They work with disabled and socially marginalised people – over 50,000 of them in 200 centres all over the world. In January 2014, however, the ownership and operating arrangements for Rehab Bingo changed. It moved from Virtue Fusion to Microgaming and the management was taken over by Broadway Gaming, the owners of Butlers Bingo. The Rehab Bingo site says that “a percentage of all funds raised on the site” go to the charity but we have not being able to find out what that percentage is, and since it is a Republic of Ireland charity there is no requirement for that information to be displayed (as it would for a UK charity).
2014 saw the launch of the Dragonfish network site Tickety Boo Games which was owned by Marie Curie Charity Care. This charity provides care and emotional support for patients with terminal cancer and their families, at home and in hospices, and all net profits from the site went to the charity making it our top choice amongst charity bingo sites. Unfortunately, Tickety Boo closed its doors in Spring 2016; it seems the site was no longer a viable source of revenue for the charity, probably due to the regulatory and taxation changes since launch. This is not only bad news for that particular site, but for charity bingo in general; if a well known, well respected and well run charity like that can’t make it work, who is going to be able to?
The nice thing about supporting a charity via a bingo site that works in this way is that whether you win or lose, the charity still benefits.
At Charity Bingo, a site on the 15 Network, there used to be a prominently displayed message on the home page which stated that they give 10% of all deposits to their charity of the month. Sounds great, but following the link to find out what the charity of the month was and how much had been donated was quite a disappointment, as only one charity of the month was listed. Subsequent to that, the message on the home page changed to just saying “we give away some of our profits to charity” with the deal explained elsewhere on the site, but no link to say what the charity of the month was.
At the start of 2014 it was changed yet again – the new arrangement was for £1 to be donated to their charity of the month (which is now being changed at least semi regularly) for every deposit of £20 or more – so basically, up to 5% of deposits. A JustGiving user profile showed what had been donated to the charities (although this was not as clear as it could have been as the links from Charity Bingo often pointed to the wrong pages on JustGiving) and up until August 2015 the charity of the month was changed most months and donations were made ranging from around £300 to around £900. As of April 2016, the £1 donations are allegedly being added to the Charity Bingo Heroes Pot to be donated to a selected charity when the pot reaches a point somewhere between £500 and £1000 but either it hasn’t been updated for a while or no-one is depositing, as the pot has been showing as £320 for some months. The site is also rumoured to be for sale so who knows what could happen to the charitable donations in the future?
The downside of a scheme like this is that the charity only gets any money if the bingo site makes money out of YOU – so if you win, the charity gets nothing.
Pink Ribbon Bingo, a site on the Dragonfish network, is run in partnership with Daily Mail Bingo. It used to support Breakthrough Breast Cancer. Despite the pink ribbon branding, it was not controlled by the charity, but was an official corporate partner donating 15% of gross profits as explained on the charity’s web site. At some point the charity was changed to Against Breast Cancer and although the Pinkometer on Pink Ribbon’s Community page shows total donations of around £95,000 to breast cancer charities, there is no information about how much of that went to which charity, how much is being donated on an ongoing basis or even how frequently the Pinkometer is updated.
Postcode Bingo is a Dragonfish network bingo site that gives 10% of net proceeds to the Dogs Trust charity, despite not having a name that is anything to do with charity bingo. The total donations from this site and the associated scratchcard and slots site are in excess of £100,000 but we suspect most of this is from the slots site, especially from the Dogs Trust branded scratchcard where they give 25% of net proceeds.
At Big Heart Bingo, a Cozy-powered site on the Super Bingo network, players could choose from a selection of supported charities when they register. 50% of net revenue from their account would go to the charity of their choice (which could not be changed apart from by closing the account and opening a fresh one). Big Heart did provide an avenue for relatively small charities, that wouldn’t have the wherewithal to open a bingo site of their own, to raise funds via bingo. Unfortunately, when Big Heart’s bingo network was absorbed by the Live Bingo Network during 2015 and the site had a design change, all mention of any actual donations to charity was quietly dropped although it still bills itself as “The Worlds’s Charity Bingo Site”
Health Bingo is powered by Bede Gaming and run by Intellectual Property and Software Ltd (who also run a number of non charity sites) in association with the Health Lottery. 20% of profits from this site go to the good causes, as opposed to the 20% of proceeds from the Health Lottery itself, and the Health Lottery site displays a page with a clear and detailed explanation of this when you click on the bingo link there.
There was yet another site called My Charity Bingo which donated profits to charity, and (in theory at least) a lot of them – originally 100% of net revenue from each player’s account went to the Just Giving cause of their choice (now 75%), but despite being aimed at UK players it was licensed and regulated in Curacao and therefore banned by the UK Gambling Commission from advertising in the UK. Nor did it apply for a UK licence when that became the requirement. For a while the domain name redirected to Charity Bingo but the site now seems to be up and running again, in euros and geo-locked so as not to accept any registrations from the UK. While the choice of a platform not licensed for the UK seems bizarre, this was clearly done because the software and network were supplied free of charge. If only 888 or Playtech were so generous!
Bingo Giving, on the Dragonfish network, originally had a prominently displayed message from Gus the Giving Gorilla about the charity of the month, and they did seem to change it relatively often, but they only donated when someone won a jackpot, so the sums raised (via an associated Just Giving page) were not particularly impressive. Ownership of the site changed in November 2013 and the messages about charity remained on display, but visiting the Just Giving page for November’s charity of the month revealed no donations.
As of March 2014 a new charity of the month (Sport Relief 2014) was being shown, but Gus’s JustGiving profile (which showed all the donations to charity since the site was set up in 2009) did not have a page for it and there were still no donations to Ataxia UK which was nominated as the charity of the month before the site changed hands in November.
Fast forward to 2015 and Gus has been given the boot and replaced by Charlie the Charity Chimp. Charlie does seem to make occasional donations to charities but these amount to under £200 a month and there still remains the question of donations to Ataxia UK that were advertised but apparently not (or not yet, at least) made. Charlie did eventually donate £140 to Sport Relief in April 2014. As of Spring 2016 the charity of the month is shown as Great Ormond Street Hospital but there does not seem to be an associated JustGiving page and the accompanying graphic is for a different charity (from the previous year).
Many of the big bingo sites such as Gala Bingo, Mecca Bingo and 888Ladies run promotions from time to time in the course of which large sums (sometimes hundreds of thousands) are given to charity. It could be that by having an account there, and making sure you participate in the charity events, you’ll actually end up supporting charities to a greater extent than by playing at one of the overtly charity branded sites. You can find out about any current charity bingo events on our monthly promotions page.
A good example of this type of promotion was Foxy Bingo‘s October 2013 Pink Ribbon Jackpots. 20% of all card sales for the series of £250 guaranteed jackpots games that ran several times a day throughout the month, were donated to Breast Cancer Campaign. Foxy ran a similar promotion for Breast Cancer Awareness month for many years but sadly they seem to have stopped doing so now. A more recent and very generous charity initiative was the Hearts of Gold promotion which ran over several months at Wink Bingo. £57,000 was raised from this series of charity games, for Cancer Research UK via the Peter Andre Fund.
We have to be honest here and say it doesn’t look good. The Point of Consumption tax that was introduced in the wake of the new UK licensing regime, and the further changes announced in the 2016 Budget, have eaten into the profits of bingo sites to the extent that they no longer have much to spare for charitable donations, and the demise of Tickety Boo Games shows that online bingo is not a particularly effective way for a charity to raise money. We would love to see the government introduce a tax break for charity bingo, or one of the software giants such as Playtech, 888 or Gamesys sponsoring a charity site by supplying the platform free of charge, but neither of these seem at all likely. We are left with an increasingly poor (and in some cases frankly dodgy looking) selection of charity bingo sites and an increasingly few and far between selection of charity bingo promotions.
Perhaps it is time for those of us who want to support charities via bingo play to cut out the middleman by keeping a piggy bank next to the computer, putting in any loose change when we play, and emptying the piggy bank periodically into a charity box! Or after a win, why not visit Just Giving or Want2Donate and make a donation?