At a smoky, often crowded bingo hall in the middle of a northwest Oklahoma City strip mall, players have spent millions of dollars in the hopes the numbers go their way — all in the name of charity.
The place is Bingo City.
Games with names like Six-Pack are called out at dizzying speeds from 10 a.m. to midnight six days a week. Players spent almost $7.6 million there in 2010, records show.
And, right at the entrance, Bingo City tells players in red letters it is “sponsored by” Allied Veterans of the World, Inc. & Affiliates.
Allied Veterans of the World allegedly was a front for 49 gambling centers in Florida that — under the guise of being Internet cafes — operated illegal slot machines. Almost 60 people were arrested in March as a result of a lengthy investigation nicknamed Operation “Reveal the Deal.”
“The organization falsely claimed to be a charitable veterans' organization, but instead deceived the public and government while lining the pockets of its operators,” the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said.
No one involved with Bingo City, 4443 NW 50, was accused of wrongdoing even though its owners belong to an Allied Veterans “post.”
“We're here in Oklahoma. We have no knowledge of what was going on in Florida,” hall manager James Doyle “J.J.” Ford said.
He said money from the bingo operation does go to charity.
Ford, 34, of Oklahoma City, referred all other questions to Bingo City's attorney, Shawn Fulkerson. The attorney did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.
Oklahoma law allows only charitable organizations to have commercial bingo operations. A license from the Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission costs $100 a year.
The license for Bingo City is held by Allied Veterans of the World Post 28 Inc., records show.
It was incorporated in Oklahoma in November 2005. Ford is identified in paperwork at the ABLE Commission as a post commander and premise manager.
Post 28 at first ran a bingo hall called Will Rogers Bingo at 3130 N Portland. It later relocated to 4443 NW 50 as Bingo City.
Another Post 28 official, Arthur Marsh, 56, indicated money from those bingo halls was sent to the national Allied Veterans of the World organization.
“What do these people do?” Marsh said of the national group. “I was under the impression we were supporting a veterans' organization. … We need to put these guys in our past. We've got local charities that need money.”
Marsh, of Mustang, acknowledged he has had little to do with Bingo City's operations for more than a year because he has been recovering from major back surgery. He recently returned to work for the Oklahoma County sheriff.
Post 28 had $7,598,654 in gross income from its gaming activities in 2010, according to a tax form it filed with the Internal Revenue Service.
It reported it had only $75,121 in net income left over, though, after paying out prizes and expenses. It reported paying $6.3 million in cash prizes, $531,903 in rent and facility costs, and $684,426 in other expenses.
Post 28 told the IRS on the form: “The purpose of the organization is to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America and to honor those who have died in the service of their Country.”
It reported gross income of $1.5 million in 2009, $1.3 million in 2008, $1.3 million in 2007 and $1.5 million in 2006.
There was no explanation in the IRS forms for why the gross income was so much higher in 2010.
Post 28's gaming income for 2011 and 2012 was not available.