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Bingo Big in Small Town Indiana

24 June 2002

CONNERSVILLE, Indiana – As reported by the -- Giant colored markers bob and dip over bingo cards like divining rods as numbers are called out every 21 seconds.

"At stake is a $100 prize. But at American Legion Post 1, bingo is about more than cash. It's a thread in the fabric that makes up a small town.

"It's where folks go when there's no movie theater in town, where generations gather to celebrate birthdays, where those without family find friends to converse with.

"And it's also where some big bucks are being spent.

"In 2001, the state issued licenses allowing 920 organizations to hold bingo games and sell pull-tabs. Those licenses generated more than $576 million in revenue.

"Indianapolis games generated the most money -- $63 million.

"…According to an Indianapolis Star analysis of Indiana Department of Revenue records, the top five counties for per-capita bingo spending are Steuben, Fayette, Henry, Jefferson and Wayne. The counties, with an average population of 31,741, spent an average of $394 per person on bingo games in 2001.

"…It's money that's used to fund local programs, keep dues down at American Legion posts and offer scholarships to high school students.

"It's also, players say, a lot of fun -- and provides more opportunities per buck to win than the lottery or the state's riverboat casinos.

"…The games are thriving in small communities despite the state's lagging economy. Even in Fayette County, where the April unemployment rate was 9.4 percent -- second-highest in the state, and well above the state average of 5.1 percent -- players kept rolling in.

"…William Thompson, a professor at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, said the game's resilience isn't surprising. Bingo, he noted, came into its own during the Great Depression, when many people fell on hard times…"

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