MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It is a five-letter phrase that is associated with good old-fashioned fun. And it’s a game people ages 5 to 105 enjoy – BINGO!
Your votes led WCCO to Bloomington, home to the Knights of Columbus’ Bingo Hall.
It’s a place where tradition reigns.
“We’ve been playing Bingo since the 50s,” said gambling manager Scott Marette. “I asked one of the workers when I got here, ‘When did you start?’ She said, ‘I don’t know.’ I said, ‘Who was president?’ She said, ‘Eisenhower!'”
If it were not for the electronic cards, you would hardly know time had passed.
There is traditionalism and ritualism.
“Some people use special colored dabbers for special games. A lot of people have trolls, lot of pictures of the grandkids. Lot of superstition,” Marette said.
The Knights of Columbus is a Catholic men’s group, and they use the money they make on the $12.50-a-night games to support kids groups.
Marette, a stage 4 melanoma survivor, says it’s a place with a whole lot of heart.
“Every Saturday I have people come up [to say], ‘I lit a candle for you at church, we’re praying for you at my church,'” he said.
His employees agree, like Trevor Miska, who is a third-generation regular at the hall.
“It’s kind of like a big family, this is the only reason why I work here pretty much,” Miska said. “It’s not for the money, it’s just because of fun.”
And there is nothing more fun than when you win, especially when you win big. Arlene Toonen recently dotted her way to a $2,000 check. What did she do with it?
“I spent it [laughs]!” Toonen said. “Wendy came with her camera and was taking pictures and everybody was yacking at me, so it’s a blur!”
The hall shells out $3,000 each night. Toonen, who lost her beloved husband seven years ago, says she is not in it for the money.
“You got to be out and you got to be talking to people, because if you sit at home there’s too much time to think and feel sorry for yourself. Can’t do that. No time for that,” Toonen said. “Besides, you got to be a little saucy and pick on the kids once in a while.”
Speaking of kids, Dennis Daniels — who has been calling games at the hall for 17 years — says they are welcome as long as they are 18 or up.
“Sunday and Monday you get a lot of young people,” Daniels said. “Bingo is not just for the old folks anymore, it’s for anybody who wants to play and enjoy themselves basically.”
And clearly they are. Some people play 30 to 60 cards at a time, with just 10 seconds to search for the right number.
“That’s how your eyes work and that’s why you’re here, so you can use your head — otherwise you’ll lose it,” Toonen said.
She’s right. It seems even if you don’t win, there’s a lot here to gain.
The Knights of Columbus Bloomington also has meat raffles and pull tabs. And if you’re into boozy Bingo, they have that on Wednesday nights.