If you like to gamble a bit, but don’t like giving your money to casinos, consider spending an evening at Big Walnut High School Athletic Boosters Bingo Night, held every Tuesday evening in the high school cafeteria.
The nice thing about an evening at Big Walnut Bingo, is that every penny the house earns beyond expenses goes to Big Walnut Athletic Boosters and to booster’s sub-satellite groups that fund individual high school athletic teams.
But all of that is changing because Bingo attendance has been down — way down. With fewer and fewer players showing up at Big Walnut Bingo, what used to be a windfall for athletic boosters has dwindled to a trickle.
Diana Horsley, who, along with her husband, Odis, serves as Bingo Night Gaming Manager, said when they took over Bingo 17 years ago there would be 200 people on game night. Bingo would take in $2,000 to $3,000; a player could win $500 on a good game, a coverall could bring in up to $1,000, and a booster group’s six volunteers would work three hours and take home $300 for the team.
Last Tuesday there were 19 people in the cafeteria playing Bingo; the gross take that night was $460. Payouts were low, and there was not enough money in the bank to bring a booster club in for the evening to help out and earn dollars for the team they support.
“We’re not getting the local support we used to get,” Diana said. “Tonight we have only three players from the local area; most come from Centerburg, Columbus, Johnstown. We need at least 50 players for Bingo to be profitable for boosters; even 30 players would help us make money.”
Because Big Walnut Bingo is not bringing in enough money to pay a booster group to work the floor, Diana, Odis, Mike Tutorow and Barbara Lesiuer have been running the games.
“Big Walnut Bingo is supposed to be run by athletic boosters, and a lot of sports groups are upset because they can’t work and earn money for their teams, but we don’t make enough money to give them donations for showing up and helping,” Diana said. “Cheerleaders, girls and boys soccer, softball, girls track, and swimming — these groups really depend on bingo. Their volunteers are here from 6 p.m. until 9:30, six people, and for that they get $300.”
Diana said during the most recent booster meeting Diana and Odis told the boosters that Bingo was no longer making enough money to support sports groups; that if attendance doesn’t pick up soon, Big Walnut Bingo is destined to become a thing of the past. She told the boosters that 19 players, like those in attendance last Tuesday, would not support the operation’s intended purpose — to raise money for the school district’s athletic booster clubs.
“We’re hoping we don’t have to close Bingo down, but if attendance doesn’t improve, the last date will be in four to five weeks,” Diana said. “We don’t want to close down Big Walnut Bingo after all these years, but we don’t know what else to do.”
Big Walnut Bingo is held each Tuesday evening in the Big Walnut High School Cafeteria. Doors open at 5 p.m., the first game is at 7, Bingo is typically over by 9:30.
Players must be 18 years old or older, and an evening of Bingo costs about $25 per person. Concessions include hot dogs, nachos, pizza, chips and soda; there’s always free coffee and popcorn.
“If attendance picks up we’ll reconsider,” Diana said. “But we can’t keep the Bingo doors open if the numbers don’t support Big Walnut’s booster clubs. If some of the booster clubs would be willing to buy signs and banners, or print some fliers and take them to other Bingo games to help get the word out that we’re here — but nobody’s been willing to help do it. It’s like doing anything with a church group or other groups, it’s always the same people getting things done.”