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Albuquerque Journal

Amid today’s flash, bingo still can shine

By Bill Previtti / For the Journal

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In the beginning bingo was the game played on church grounds and in fraternal and veterans’ clubs back rooms, or meeting halls. In New Mexico during the post-World War II years, the late 1940s and early 1950s, bingo and pull-tabs were about the only moneymaker the clubs could count on to pay the bills.

Then in 1997, when Class 3 gambling was legalized, bingo was pushed into a closet. Within in a few months most of the vet and frat clubs had dumped bingo and were walling in and decorating back rooms, anxiously awaiting the arrival of slots, those divine machines that would lead them out of the dark redness of their bookkeeping ledgers.

Meanwhile, back on the reservation, most of the Indian bingo halls had already set aside floor space for Class 2 slot machines, those devices replicating “real” slots but were really under all the pomp and circumstance were pull-tab machines in full armor.

Even with the arrival of slot machines, most tribal leaders did not sell off their numbered Ping-Pong balls and bouncing-bubble-ball machines.

Fifteen years later, the world’s oldest audience-participating gambling game is alive and doing quite well, thank you. The top crop of the state’s casinos conduct bingo and vigorously market it, even though it’s a subset to the push of slots and table games. It works and earns its keep, more than enough to earn its seat at the table of casino profit.

Have you looked in the bingo rooms, or halls, or our area casinos? These rooms are wide and high, crisp, quiet, stocked with snack bars and attendants ready to care for whatever the dauber would need.

Gone are the days of simple bingo. Today there are as many games as the Green Bay Packers’ playbook. There are progressive games, where a jackpot can easily climb to high-five figures.

Grizzled casino veterans, who not too long ago sniffed at bingo blue hairs, have of late been spotted playing several cards and enjoying the relaxed quiet but solid action of the latest in bingo gaming. Try it, enjoy it, at a casino near you.

MORE BINGO: Hard Rock, nee Isleta, has a long, storied history of bingo, going back to the English organization that built its first bingo hall. In its current quarters, Hard Rock’s combination bingo hall and showroom can house more than a thousand players.

Route 66 Hotel-Casino converted the south end of its casino into an impressive entrance for their bingo battalion.

Sandia has firmly held onto its bingo players. Casino leaders have regularly upgraded their hall. The room is close to all floor action, but is still sequestered and library-quiet.

Bingo is a six-day-a-week staple (forget Saturdays) at Acoma’s Sky City Casino. The room can seat 500 neatly, and by the first call evenings at 7, the room is full.

Cities of Gold Casino, in Pojoaque, has bingo calls going five days a week, Wednesdays through Sundays. Hours vary, and there are matinees.

Two recent $5,000 bingo winners from Hard Rock were M. Beltran from the Duke City, playing a Do-It-Yourself-Bingo game. The other winner was I. Gascon, who was in town from Monzales, Calif. The win game after playing a Customer Appreciation game.

San Felipe Pueblo’s Casino Hollywood leaders have bingo on the table and are thinking of adding it to their inventory of games. Stay tuned.

CINCO DE MAyO: May 5, Cinco de Mayo, looks to be a monster day for entertainment: Kentucky Derby Day at the Downs; Charo appearing at Casino Hollywood; Barry Manilow, with full orchestra, opening Sandia’s Amphitheater for the season and Yolanda Del Rio and Graciela Beltran at Route 66 Legends Theater.

A footnote on the Kentucky Derby party at the Downs: Those planning on spending the race day in the Jockey Club are invited to make reservations ahead of time. Call the track at 266-5555 and ask for Becky Boros, the club hostess.

For all race fans, enter the Fairgrounds through Gate 3 on San Pedro. It is the first gate north of Central.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In the beginning bingo was the game played on church grounds and in fraternal and veterans’ cl …