Online bingo 'can bring in extra cash for charities'

Online bingo could rival the National Lottery in size and become a major source of funds for charities because of changes in the law, according to the former managing director of the charity lottery division of Littlewoods.

Jeremy Collis, who is the founder of the Big Heart Bingo website, said there was no reason why online bingo should not raise millions each year.

Provisions in the 2005 Gambling Act, which came into force in September this year, allow online gaming sites to advertise when run from regulated jurisdictions.

About £1.5bn is spent in licensed bingo halls. Commercial operators such as Virgin, Orange, Mecca and Butlins have now moved into the online market.

The number of people registering to play on Big Heart Bingo, which donates 50 per cent of its net revenue to charity, increased from between 50 and 100 a month in September to more than 1,000 a month now.

"There is no reason why online bingo couldn't raise millions," Collis said. "Lotteries are a difficult model. Play Monday was never going to work. The National Lottery works only because it has mass distribution and the TV programme."

A spokesman for the Gambling Commission said: "Our survey data on remote gambling participation shows that 1.2 per cent of the adult population participated in remote bingo in the year to September 2007. Participation has gone up."

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