New entry fees, prize limits created for charity bingo games

DES MOINES — A bill that’s cleared the Iowa legislature would let churches and non-profit organizations that host bingo games as fundraisers offer a gun worth up to $5000 as a prize.

The bill cleared the Senate almost unanimously in February without debate, but there was some push back this past week before it passed the House.

Representative Eric Gjerde, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, suggested any prize worth $5000 should be allowed. “So if an organization wants to give a trip away, they can,” Gjerde said. “If an organization wants to give a canoe or a paddleboat away, they can.”

Representative Shannon Lundgren, a Republican from Peosta, said she “100%” agrees, but that expansion would doom the bill if it was returned to the Senate. “We will continue to work on that next year because I, too, would like to see our church organizations and other non-profit organizations, whether they’re youth-oriented or not earn extra money,” Lundren said.

The bill does raise the entry fee limit for bingo fundraisers to $50. The current limit on bingo prizes in Iowa is $250. The bill raises the value limit on prizes to $900, unless it’s a gun. The bill is headed to the governor for review.

Bingo fundraisers for charity are legal in Iowa as long as the games are run by volunteers.