Bluenoses and Bingo Games

Most people enjoy a good game of bingo. Bingo is considered a ‘soft’ and ‘socially acceptable’ form of gambling. The games are totally random which makes them more exciting for most players. Bingo has had a long association with churches and charities. Despite all the good that bingo has done there are still a few bluenoses here and there that can’t stand to see bingo players having a good time. Usually the objections are based on fundamentalist Christianity. In Alabama a tiny minority was able to get bingo games banned at the local senior center and were actually proud of their ‘accomplishment.’

Earlier in the year several residents of a trailer park in Manatee Florida staged a protest after bingo games were banned. Several angry residents of the Trailer Estates Park staged a demonstration to protest restrictions on bingo games held in the park. The players held signs reading “Bingo IS Legal,” “Let Our Seniors Play Bingo,” and “This IS Elder Abuse.” Resident Myrtle Hollin, a spry 97, took part in the demonstration enjoys playing bingo “because it perks me up and makes me feel better. We enjoy playing bingo. We have fun and have no troublemakers — until this.”

Residents said the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office actually threatened to shutter the bingo games because they constituted ‘gambling.’ For years players at the park had played bingo for small stakes which went into a pot to pay the winner. Sheriff Brad Steube sent a letter dated March 28th that said that the Trailer Estates “does not fall into any of the categories of nonprofit entities permitted to conduct bingo games.” The park’s attorney, Mark Barnebey, brokered a compromise for a Wednesday game. Winners will receive prizes instead of cash.

Not all park residents like the bingo games. Park resident and professional bluenose Mary Lou Smith said she filed a complaint to stop the games. Smith stated “All I have been trying to do is get them to follow the law. Their own attorneys told them not once, but twice, to stop. My original complaint was I was protesting my assessment because my taxpayer dollars were being spent on gambling supplies and equipment.” In 2008 Smith and her equally bluenosed sister, Sharon Denson, sued the park for violations of Florida’s sunshine laws.

The sisters were unsuccessful and the normal residents continued to play bingo. Circuit Court Judge Janette Dunnigan ruled in favor of Trailer Estates after a trial that wasted seven days! Dunnigan found mobile home park staff made adequate attempts to accommodate the sister’s requests. In 1969 The Trailer Estates Park and Recreational District, 6814 Canada Blvd, became a government agency and is subject to Florida’s sunshine and open records laws.

Bingo players in the park seeking fun and entertainment free from the prying eyes of the sisters should try internet bingo. Games take place 24/7 and instead of prizes players can win real cash. Even better the jackpots for some games are life changing amounts of money!