Bingo is back

Bingo never really went away.

What was viewed as the retiree’s, pensioner’s and widow’s past time swooned a bit a decade ago, but in Minnesota some easing of charitable gaming rules is bringing players back to the parlors.

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Some of the fastest action is here at Flamingo Bingo in Rochester, Minnesota where the neon sign on the front desk greets the hundreds of players who visit during the week.

People play as many as twelve cards. They may also have rented a bingo tablet computer that basically does everything for them including alerting them to when they should shout, “bingo.”

There are hundreds of bingo operations around Minnesota operated by all kinds of groups, but there are only 8 state licensed bingo parlors – places exclusively devoted to bingo.

The state keeps fairly meticulous records of the bingo goings-on. In fact according to state numbers bingo ranks second just behind “raffles” and ahead of pull-tabs for 2011 charitable gaming revenue. And the money adds up. About $590,000 in bingo profits (out of a total, by the way, of more than $18 million in charitable gaming profits last year – not exactly spare change.)

Last year’s Flamingo Bingo contribution of $90,000 went to it’s operator, the Rochester Senior Center Foundation.

Ok, that’s about it – one can go on and on about bingo including memories of those first childhood games with the kernels of corn on bingo cards, the first bingo for money game, maternal and paternal grandmothers, aunts and others who are devoted to bingo and never miss an event, even one miles away from where they live.

Then there’s “on-line” bingo – goodness, what an antiseptic experience that must be.

And according to various accounts on the world wide web the mania traces its roots to a middle ages lotto game in Italy, by way of Bavaria, brought to this country by immigrants and then things really took off when an enterprising bingo businessman hired a math professor to devise all kinds of number combinations.


Minnesota Sounds and Voices: Flamingo Bingo in Rochester