What's the appeal of Bingo?

When my mother went into a nursing home, some eight years ago, she was reluctant to take part in the various activities offered.

Bingo sounded simple enough. They played slowly. Very slowly. She could see the big numbers. Really big numbers. And I think they bet a penny, maybe a nickel, a game.

When I tried to talk her into playing, she informed me that "I didn't play Bingo when I was younger and I'm not going to play Bingo now." She also refused to take part in the Christmas pageant.

Which I rather enjoyed, looking back on it. When the machine started up the fog, or smoke, or whatever the vapors were, the dancers looked rather ephemeral. And the oldsters almost suffocated. As did the audience.

But that's another story.

Like Mother, like daughter. I've never played Bingo. I admit it. I mean, "professionally." I used to play with the kids. And found it boring. Give me a good game of hearts. Or blackjack. Or gin rummy. Or a roll of quarters for the slots.

I went down to Foxwoods once. Frankly, I went with a budget of money I was willing to spend. Rewrite that. Lose. And I came home with most of it. I didn't win. I just didn't spend it.

And I didn't even go into the Bingo Hall. Which was bigger than the Westfield High football stadium. And had a bigger crowd, too.

Mom and I used to be in the minority. But I guess more people aren't playing Bingo. If that's grammatically correct. Maybe, it's less people are playing Bingo.

Word it the way you like. But, here are the facts. According to the State Lottery Commission, gaming dollars are declining in Massachusetts. And the charitable groups that have benefitted in the past--the boys clubs, the churches, the camps--are getting less than ever before.

There's legislation pending that would help make local games more viable. Offer bigger prizes. But, meanwhile, our average nonprofit organization netted only about $33,000.

There were seven licenses active in Westfield last year. The Elks, The Boys and Girls Club, Blessed Sacrament, St. Peter's Church, Abilities Unlimited (Kamp for Kids), Holy Trinity and St. Mary's, but St. Mary's decided not to play. Every single one showed a decrease in the number of players.

I'll tell you what the gross receipts were. But I don't know the net. Let's just say that Kamp for Kids did the best, taking in $265,000, followed by the Boys and Girls Club with $224,000. St. Peters and the Elks came in third and fourth, with $145,900 and $100,400, followed by Holy Trinity and Blessed Sacrament, at $37,500 and $24,900.

And, where in the state was the most spent, you asked, your dark eyes greedily flashing. In Malden, at Malden Catholic High School. Some $1,155,316 was taken in. Gross of course. Net, I don't know.

Someone who keeps statistics figured that the per capita spending in Westfield was $21.23. I didn't go. Neither did Curt, as in my husband. Or my mother. So, if you did, you could have spend yours and ours, or about a hundred bucks.

Of course, if you live in Montgomery or Longmeadow you couldn't have played Bingo at all, because these communities have voted against having Bingo.

The rest of us were allowed to play Bingo as of September 29, 1971. That's when Bingo became legal in the Commonwealth. And our senior citizens, or Golden Age Clubs, couldn't even play recreationally until 1983. In just 13 years, some 730 groups of oldsters had registered to play.

But Mom just wouldn't go along with it. Now, maybe when I'm 90.

All materials copyright 1997 - 2014