WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Some parents at a Wichita school fear their annual bingo-night fundraiser will be canceled, after district officials reminded them that state law forbids pay-to-play bingo.
However, a president of a parent-teacher group at Peterson Elementary School said there’s hope the bingo fundraiser may still be held if it’s on a donation basis.
In May, district officials sent a note to principals to clarify bingo rules, The Wichita Eagle reported. It said events aren’t allowed if people have to pay entrance fees or pay to play the game and prizes are offered only to winners. But they said events where admission and bingo cards are free are OK.
“During the school year, questions come up about it,” said Wichita school district spokeswoman Susan Arensman. “We just wanted to clarify it for schools: Please don’t have bingo nights if you’re going to say, ‘Hey, you have to pay $5 to get this bingo card.’ You can’t do that.”
Arensman said the note to school principals wasn’t prompted by a specific incident or event, just “overall confusion” about bingo fundraisers.
The parent-teacher organization at the elementary school raised more than $5,000 at a bingo night earlier this year. The money went toward copy machines, classroom supplies and field trips for Peterson Elementary School.
“It’s a big school tradition and a substantial fundraiser,” said Sherry Ibrahim, president of the parent-teacher group at the school. “Everybody looks forward to it every year because the kids have a lot of fun there, and so do their parents.”
Patsy Congrove with the Kansas Department of Revenue said parent-teacher organizations or nonprofit foundations could also apply for a bingo license. State law allows specific groups, including nonprofit religious and educational organizations, to sign up for them. They cost $25 and are good for a year.
“When PTOs and PTAs convene for the school year, they’re always looking for ways to raise money for their school, and so bingo frequently comes up,” Congrove said.
Fewer than 20 school-related organizations in Kansas currently hold bingo licenses, Congrove said.
A group has to show it has tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service as part of its bingo license application.
Ibrahim said she doubts the elementary school will apply for the license because of the amount of time, cost and paperwork involved in establishing the tax-exempt status.
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