SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

January 31, 2013

Bye-bye, bingo

After 20 years, Beverly Senior Center's weekly game ends

BEVERLY — Margaret Sullivan sat ready to play bingo last night with a few lucky charms — a plastic leprechaun, a statue of Buddha and a bobblehead turtle.

Sullivan, 91, of Beverly, has played bingo weekly at the Beverly Senior Center on Colon Street for about 20 years. But her tradition came to an end last night after a nonprofit group decided to stop hosting the weekly event.

“This is a sad day for Beverly,” Sullivan said. “They will all be crying before the night is out.”

The group, Beverly Senior Citizens Club, was the only organization with a bingo license in Beverly.

Sullivan said she looked forward to bingo every Wednesday night to gather with friends.

“We have a lot of fun,” she said. “It was a blessing for us older people to look forward to this.”

The room filled with more than 100 people had a somber feel last night as the caller announced that it would be the last session at the center.

At its height, bingo would draw more than 200 people each week to the senior center. But with increased gaming opportunities at casinos in Connecticut, attendance declined to the point that it was no longer viable, said MaryAnn Holak, executive director of the senior center.

The average attendance each week was about 140, she said.

Beverly Senior Citizens Club was also losing money, according to a 2011 annual report from the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission. Holak and organizers declined comment on the group’s profits.

Holak said that many of the Senior Citizens Club volunteers were ready to step down from their leadership roles.

“If they were able to find a younger, more robust group of volunteers, they would like to have kept it going,” she said. “They never wanted to see it end.”

She credited the volunteers with making the event a success for the past 20 years, noting that the state does not allow municipalities to organize gambling activities. Donations from the group allowed the senior center to make many improvements over the years, she said.

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