You know the song by heart: “B-I-N-G-O.” More than likely, your first introduction to the game was playing bingo in elementary school or perhaps at your church or school fundraiser. In 2019, you will have three chances to reminisce and possibly win big at the Benton Area Chamber of Commerce Bingo Night.
Bingo was first introduced to North America in the early 1920s and has been a popular game for people of all ages ever since. Whether you used bingo to learn letters and numbers as a kid, or enjoy it as a pastime as an adult, bingo’s simple appeal reaches a broad audience.
The Benton Area Chamber of Commerce wanted to create a new experience and provide an evening where members of the community could gather to enjoy a meal, play a game and meet new people. The Malvern Chamber has experienced great success at a Bingo Bash it hosts each spring. Gary James, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Benton Area Chamber of Commerce, met with surrounding area chamber presidents and together bounced ideas back and forth about a Bingo Night.
“Malvern Chamber of Commerce has been a great resource for us as I have been learning all the state rules and regulations for Bingo Night,” said Amy McCormick, Director of Events with the Benton Area Chamber of Commerce. “They’ve been a great support. We are far enough away geographically to not intrude on their event.”
In August of 2017, the Benton Area Chamber of Commerce hosted their first Bingo Night at the Benton Event Center. To their surprise, more than 500 people arrived that night to play. “Bingo Night was a whole new world,” said Amy. “We didn’t know what to expect. We hoped for 500 people and we ended up dragging out chairs and tables to that everyone could participate! It’s a relaxed setting and it’s been something new and fun for people to attend.”
Word quickly spread about Bingo Night and the two events in 2018 brought in 700-800 people each night. At the end of each game, the winner receives a cash prize and raffle tickets are sold. At the end of the evening, the winning raffle ticket is drawn. The previous winners have won between $1,500 and $2,000 in cash.
“Our goal is to have a fun, safe evening,” said Amy. “We give away cash and that is appealing to everyone. We give away about $8,000 in cash in one night and that makes a difference for people. Everyone comes in with the hope, ‘what if I win.’ Plus, you never know, you might become friends with the person sitting next to you!”
Tickets for the event can be purchased over the phone by calling the Benton Chamber of Commerce at 501-860-7002 and be mailed or picked up in person. Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door. Additional bingo cards for games 1-16 are sold for $1 each and Raffle tickets are sold for $10 for 10 tickets or $2 for a single raffle ticket. Guests must be 18 or older to purchase tickets and participate in the event.
In 2019, new food options will also be available and will include snacks, drinks and a cash bar for an additional cost. Volunteers walk around selling raffle tickets and additional cards so you do not spend your time waiting in line.
“People bring their good luck charms,” said Amy. “When you win, we want you to stand up and scream! It’s a huge professional bingo hall and you have to stand out when there are hundreds of people in the room. The winners run up to the prize table to claim their cash.”
The evening’s emcee is Lamont Cornwell. He calls out the bingo numbers and “he keeps things flowing,” said Amy. “He’s a comical guy who makes the night fun and he keeps everyone on the same page.”