Arkansas Bingo Ban Subject of Comedy Central’s Colbert Report

It’s not often that bingo games generate controversy but in Bald Knob Arkansas things got so out of hand that Comedy Central’s ‘Colbert Report’ actually ran a segment on the problem. It all started when a local ‘pastor’, Larry Johnson’ partnered with some local killjoys to ban the bingo games at the senior citizen’s center in Bald Knob. When interviewed on camera ‘pastor’ Johnson said, among other things, that bingo was ‘Catholic’ and could lead to vandalism, crime and drug use.

A group of reporters went to Bald Knob to see what the reaction to Colbert’s satirical report was. Doyle Wallace, the mayor of Bald Knob, said that he had heard some talk about the report and said “There was something on TV I didn’t see, the Colbert program?” They also visited Johnson because the original story had portrayed Johnson’s crusade to ban bingo in Bald Knob before it led to crime sex and drugs. Although that’s essentially what Johnson said on camera he says that’s not what he meant. Johnson stated “I basically spoke about the gambling situation, and the church’s stand on gambling. Somehow they blew it up, made it sensational.” The original footage of Johnson’s comments can be seen at the Comedy Central website.

For years senior citizens have gathered in Bald Knob to play bingo and until recently there were no problems. Because of complaints from a tiny minority the games have been ended and seniors are justifiable upset. Marcia Pressler, program director with the White County Aging Program, which hosts the Bald Knob bingo games, said ending the games will hurt seniors and said that bingo nights are a chance for many seniors to get out of the house and socialize with friends. Pressler told reporters “It really makes me sad that they could take something like (bingo) and make it sound so bad.”

Viola Moore is typical of those that wanted to ban bingo in bald Knob. In an astounding statement Moore stated “This is a Christian community and we don’t go along with certain things. I was there when we had the (council) meeting and I said ‘Hallelujah.” Moore’s husband is a Baptist preacher and also supports the ban. Mayor Wallace admitted that the only complaints came from local ministers and said “I guess the only complaint would be that the people from the churches said gambling is not right. Gambling is a sin, according to some people.”

Unfortunately for seniors in the area the town council voted to ban the games. Some locals hope the ban can be overturned. Bald Knob seniors with computer access may want to try their luck playing internet bingo. They can play from the privacy of their own homes and there will be no self-righteous people looking over their shoulders. Even better the jackpots can be huge!