Bingo is booming in Mississippi’s Gulf Coast

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Washington Times – Competition is strong among the 12 casinos in South Mississippi and also among the 31 charitable groups that operate bingo games in American Legion posts and church halls across the Gulf Coast.

Bingo players spent $93 million throughout Mississippi in fiscal year 2013, and $14.7 million of that went to support projects of the organizations that run the games. Sonny Weathersby, director of the Charitable Gaming Division of the Mississippi Gaming Commission, said people call all the time asking how they can open a bingo hall.

“You can’t do that,” he said. Bingo operators in Mississippi have to be a registered nonprofit with the secretary of state’s office and the Internal Revenue Service. Bingo and casinos aren’t considered competition for each other, Weathersby said.

“Most of the people that play bingo have been playing it all their lives,” he said. “Bingo players aren’t slot players.”

On a recent afternoon at the American Legion Post 1992 off Old Spanish Trail in Gautier, the early bird games were underway. The same people generally sit in the same seats, said Gary Coon, the bingo chairman who calls the numbers as they pop out of the machine. Players mark their cards with orange or blue or yellow dots.

Depending on the size of the crowd, the American Legion can earn $800 on a Sunday with 50 players, said Coon, unless the jackpot pays out that day.


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