Indiana Charitable Casino Grosses $4.6 Million, Donates Just $17,000

Posted on: August 29, 2017, 12:00h. 

Last updated on: August 29, 2017, 12:39h.

A charitable casino operated by the Fraternal Order of Eagles (FOE) Lodge No. 3512 has been shut down by the Indiana Gaming Commission as a result of an ongoing criminal investigation.

charitable casino Indiana FOE
The charitable casino at the Fraternal Order of Eagles lodge in Fort Wayne, Indiana, is dark today, as the state gaming commission investigates alleged criminal misconduct. (Image: VisitFortWayne)

State officials said the gaming licenses have been suspended due to the organization “committing conduct prejudicial to public confidence in the Commission.” While the state regulatory office isn’t providing specific details on what that exactly means, Gaming Commission Superintendent Rob Townsend said the commission, in conjunction with Indiana State Police and the Allen County Prosecutor’s Office, is investigating whether the FOE is using net proceeds in accordance with charitable casino laws.

Townsend added that the investigation is also looking into security measures at the casino, as well as if the Eagles are running games not permissible under their licenses.

Indiana is home to 10 commercial riverboat casinos, two racinos, and one land-based venue in French Lick. The FOE charitable casino runs poker tournaments, as well as blackjack, roulette, and craps tables.

Allowable Expenses

Since the FOE lodge is itself a charitable organization, the group technically doesn’t have to donate a specific portion of gambling proceeds to other nonprofits. The Indiana Gaming Commission allows net income from gambling nights to be used for such matters as property mortgages and taxes, insurance, utilities, maintenance, remodeling and improvements, janitorial services, and even attorney fees related to gaming issues.

Revenue isn’t allowed to be spent on employee wages or benefits, nor the purchasing of alcoholic beverages other than items bought to be used as gaming prizes. Fully licensed charities cannot hold gambling nights on consecutive days, which means they’re “limited” to 182 gambling events per year.

During the last fiscal year, which ended June 30, the FOE No. 3512 Lodge says its roughly 180 charitable casino nights grossed $4.6 million. Of that total, the Gaming Commission says $17,000 went to outside charities.

The Eagles casino is a separate structure from the main lodge, and members who aren’t fond of gambling hope the raid doesn’t tarnish the organization’s reputation.

“Don’t give the Eagles a black eye because of the doings of maybe a certain amount of people over at the casino,” longtime Eagle Darrell Botts told WANE.com.

Tax Exempt

Unlike other states that tax charitable gambling, in Indiana, nonprofits operating casino nights get to keep all of the money. Minnesota is currently considering amending its charitable casino laws, as groups say they’re giving more money to the state government than they’re keeping for philanthropic purposes.

Indiana’s qualified organizations are dealt a better hand, and thousands of groups are taking advantage.

The Indiana Gaming Commission issued 3,730 charitable gambling licenses last year, though a substantial portion of that number includes organizations that are authorized to conduct just one raffle a year. 

Over the last 12 months, charitable gaming generated more than a half of a billion dollars in revenue for nonprofit use.