Gay Bingo Games Raise Money For AIDS Research

While revenues decline at many charity bingo games there is one group that is using bingo very effectively to raise money. Gay communities in the United States have discovered the fundraising power of bingo and are offering players some very unique games. In Fort Lauderdale Florida Marc Hansen – community activist, Fort Lauderdale resident, and bingo caller – said of his groups’ bingo games-“This ain’t your grandmother’s bingo.” Regular bingo nights are held at the city’s Gay and Lesbian Community Center.

Hansen has been a bingo caller for seven years and says the events offer a fun, safe environment to the gay and straight community. He also said the games offered a smoke- and alcohol-free alternative to going to clubs and bars. The games attract scores of players; men women, gays straights, locals and snowbirds; everyone is welcome. Players are armed with paper cards and colorful daubers and are more than ready to be the lucky winner to shout Bingo! For decades bingo has attracted players to churches, fraternal organizations, paper cards and colorful daubers and most recently, internet bingo. Commercial bingo got its start in Florida when the Seminole tribe opened a large bingo hall a few decade3s ago.

Gay bingo games are usually more raucous than regular bingo games. Many attend wearing flamboyant clothing and many gay bingo games feature drag queens. Hansen described his group’s games and said “I crack jokes, we have fun, we’re a little dirty sometimes. Sometimes we have drag queens coming in and calling … This is something to let your hair down.” The group raises about $1,500 every month from its popular themed bingo nights. The money is used to support various programs at the center such as free HIV tests. Organizers said that the center’s “Dog Days of Summer” bingo night raised $1,150 and the center hope to double that figure when they hold the ‘Gender Bender’ bingo night. Hanson said that boys can dress as girls, girls as boys, which will add “to the insanity” of the evening.

Occasionally the center brings in special callers such as the former television psychic Miss Cleo. A reporter who visited the games described a full bingo hall with about 110 players sitting at a dozen tables covered with colorful plastic tablecloths. In the back of the hall Nicole Martin, the community center’s operation’s manager, sold bingo cards and fluorescent-colored daubers to players arriving late. Cash prizes for the games range between 50 to $250. Similar games are used across the country to raise money for gay causes and AIDS research.