Back to Bingo

A full-fledged scandal in Florida resulted in the resignation of the state’s lieutenant governor. The legislature moved quickly to shutter the internet cafes located throughout the state. The cafes were operated by a fake veteran’s charity and investigators estimate that over $200 million was diverted by the charity. Many seniors were upset by the closure of the cafes. Former cafe player Peg Kane is back playing bingo after a two year absence. Kane said that playing bingo is not her first choice. Kane told reporters “I’m an Internet cafe player. I like to win money. I’m a gambler. Not a big gambler, but a gambler.”

Kane said she preferred the computerized games at sweepstakes cafes before the ban went into effect. The Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott acted after an investigation showed that the fake charity, the Allied Veterans of the World stole $290 million. In the meantime bingo halls have benefitted from the cafe’s bad luck. Former cafe patrons are seeking new forms of entertainment to replace the excitement of the cafes. Tim Cockrell, the owner of Jackpot Bingo in Daytona Beach, stated “We’re seeing some people for the first time in years. They’re trickling back.”

About a mile away Daytona Beach Bingo has attracted many former cafe players. Former cafe customer Fran Poole, 58, of South Daytona, said “We all went. A lot have come back to bingo now. I think its unfair what (the state) did, telling us what to do. Gambling is gambling. What I do with my $20 should be my own business.”  Several players expressed the same sentiments.

Kane said the games at Jackpot Bingo fit her budget. She said she is upset that state officials eliminated her favorite form of entertainment. Kane stated “There’s a double standard. I’m allowed to bet on dogs or play poker at the track, or play bingo and the lottery. But I’m not allowed to go to the Internet cafe.”  Cafe opponents said that the computerized slot machine-like game rooms were operating without sufficient oversight. Not all seniors enjoyed the atmosphere at the cafes. Cathy Steinbuch of Port Orange told reporters “I went once or twice, but I didn’t care for it. But I am seeing more people here since the cafes closed, as an alternative.”

Some seniors said they missed the cafes and the ability to play and socialize day or night. Lauren Coon of South Daytona has been an avid bingo player for years. Coon said she missed her two favorite cafes and added “I won enough there to sod my lawn and gravel my driveway. And it paid for half a trip to Biloxi (casinos). My husband went three times a week with me. He’s recovering from heart surgery, and it gave him a reason to get out of the house. He doesn’t like bingo. So he’s back to sitting at home. They took away his purpose to get out in the morning.”