By Justin Jones, Staff Writer
Friday, February 8, 2013 —
The players sat with their heads looking down at their cards as numbers were called, hoping that the numbers would fall in their favor.
“B7, G58,” owner and game official Chuck Nance said.
“Bingo!” a lady shouted.
“Bingo has been called,” Nance replied to the players over the sound system.
Although different letter and number combinations were said each time, the sounds of “Bingo!” have been ringing out from Bingo Down Under, a new business that is located below the Spare-Time Lanes & Lounge bowling alley.
Nance and business partner John Goodman were also the operators of the sweepstakes machines that were played on the main level of the shopping center along East Main Street between South Bell and Leonard avenues. Nance said although they may be attracting some players of the same crowd, the bingo business has been developing since 2011.
“It’s something that everybody that participated in the sweepstakes was asking for. So we felt like this was a good spot to do it,” Nance said.
Nance said he went before the planning and zoning board sometime near August 2011 to begin the process for the facility. With the sweepstakes parlors shut down at least for the current moment, he said it likely is helping the bingo games with “good timing.”
“We feel like we’re going to get more play than we would have gotten because those people still want to have some entertainment of that sort,” Nance said.
“Those players not having the sweepstakes games available are going to look for a way.
“The biggest thing with the sweepstakes is the comradery. People come here to meet their friends and hang out and that’s what they do here and that’s what they did there.”
Nance said that the facility was used for the Albemarle Boxing Club several years ago. Knowing that it could serve as a place for a large assembly of people, they began doing renovations leading up to their opening night, which happened two weeks ago.
The room has several aisles of tables, with a third of the tables in a non-smoking section. At full capacity, they could have 240 players in one game.
Nance said that the games are safe and played within the state laws.
Through three nights of bingo, he said word about the game seems to be spreading.
“Crowd seems to be getting bigger and better. We’re working out the bugs and they seemed to be pleased with the program,” Nance said.
Hot dogs, chips and drinks are sold on-site.
Playing To Win
Bingo Down Under is being played in two sessions, early bird and main package. Entry fees cost as little as $5 for early bird and $10 for main session.
“There’s seven games in the early bird package and there is 10 games in the main package,” Nance said.
Bingo laws only allow a total of $10 per bingo card. At Bingo Down Under, there are nine cards per sheet, which require either three or five bingos of the nine cards to win the prize money.
“Due to beach bingo laws we’re only allowed to pay them $10 per bingo. We pay $45 for bingo on five cards, which is equivalent to five bingos. And we’ll have a large number of those games throughout each night,” Nance said.
“A lady just the other night won a couple hundred dollars,” Nance said.
Games are played by round, with winners needing to meet the specific rules of each game, whether it be straight rows, outside lines or clusters.
While Nance said that sweepstakes players are sure to join in on the bingo games, some players are coming simply for the bingo.
Shonnita Crump made her second visit to play bingo in the early bird rounds last Thursday, hoping to add another win as she did in a prior visit where she won on a speedball round and won about $20.
“We’re bingo players. And it’s something to do,” Crump said.
“It just gives you something to do. There’s nothing to do in Albemarle.”
Crump said she was “not a sweepstakes player.”
Nearby, Terry Talbert was getting close to having the right numbers called, but said he missed filling his card for a win by just a spot or two.
The most attractive things about the game for Talbert was the game itself and the challenge.
“I just used to play bingo all the time,” Talbert said.
“It’s just a challenge trying to win. It’s just fun. Get away from home and it don’t cost much to play.”
Bingo Down Under is at 1432 E. Main St., Suite B, Albemarle. The parking area is behind the building.