Wednesday, January 16, 2002

Testing luck


Church bingo not like slots

map
        ERLANGER — It's bingo night at St. Henry District High School. Beneath a wall-mounted crucifix, the faithful pick up their daubers.

        “G-51,” a voice intones.

        People listen. They daub ink on their cards. The aura of bingo settles on the room, cigarette smoke mingling with contented murmurs.

        Betty Fuller, 60, comes every Monday. She and her sister-in-law, Margie Shouse, make no apologies: They love bingo and don't feel a bit guilty.

        “Some people say, "You mean, you're going to gamble in the Lord's house?'” says Mrs. Fuller, who attends a Pentecostal church.

        “And I say, "No, I'm in an auditorium.'”

Fund-raising staple

        If only the Catholics had it so easy.

        Bingo every week and casino-style games at summer festivals are a staple of church fund-raising. But the tradition doesn't sit well with some leaders.

        Bishop Robert Muench of the Covington Diocese once asked churches to give up gaming at festivals. Some did. Others tried but couldn't take the fiscal blow.

        Now the church faces a dilemma: How to oppose state-sponsored gambling while tolerating its own habit.

        Kentucky bishops are against legislation that would allow electronic slot machines at racetracks. Proceeds from these machines would go to support government programs.

        This isn't responsible, says Jane Chiles of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky. It's not a religious or moral issue, she says, but one of priorities.

        She's right. Funding critical programs such as public education on the whims of gamblers isn't acceptable. If these programs are worth having, they're worth supporting with tax revenue.

        Some legislators are talking hypocrisy. But if they think Catholic fund-raisers are akin to the slot-machine racket, they haven't been to a church bingo lately.

Not Las Vegas

        On Monday night, I checked out St. Henry's game, which raised $192,596 in 2000.

        More than 100 players packed the gym. It felt pleasantly amateurish. There were no laptop computers for players, and the volunteers looked like parents, not Las Vegas smoothies.

        Regulars included Jan Baer of Erlanger, who plays bingo at least three times a week.

        “My dad enjoyed movies and my mom enjoyed bingo,” says Mrs. Baer, 67. “He would drop her off to the bingo and then go see his cowboy movies.”

        Her own husband died in November. Bingo has been a great comfort, she says. Tears glisten in her eyes.

        Across the room are Mrs. Fuller and Mrs. Shouse, who consider bingo the key to sanity.

        “I can be real upset about something, and I can come here and play bingo, and it's just like nothing else exists,” says Mrs. Shouse, 61. “It's so relaxing.”

        The women say they bring no more than $35 to each game, to avoid spending too much.

        They like it when charities explain where their money goes. They know, for instance, that playing bingo at the Florence Lions Club helps poor people get eyeglasses.

        “You feel like you're a part of everything,” Mrs. Shouse says.

        Would we feel more a part of Kentucky if the racetracks had slots? I doubt it. The maw of state government isn't the same as the budget of St. Henry High School.

        We already have taxes and state lotteries. That ought to be enough.

       



Chinese teen writes home - a book
Lemmie loved in Dayton
Detective outlines two killings
Opponents of Roach stand fast in Evendale
Children's starts rare transplant
CPS board president sees city stake in rebuilding plan
Dorothy C. Bailey, 90, former Woman of the Year, dies
Fingergate questions remain
Loveland racial talks Sunday
Police say some CAN ideas are in works
Schools meeting upsets some
Sister City program shows us how to mix
Steady hand on the camera
Tristate A.M. Report
HOWARD: Some Good News
RADEL: Mind manners
- SAMPLES: Testing luck
Bill would monitor prescriptions
Drive for referendum meets goal
Hamilton council to discuss city manager's future
Mason not funding 3 positions
New use possible for Mercy Hamilton
Newtown battles firefighting issues
Students put books on computer
Warren Co. disputes cop force claims
Bridge renaming faces uphill fight
Democrats load up to unseat McConnell
Jump-start money arrives to build homes for needy
Kentucky News Briefs
N. Ky. starts moving to meet storm water order
River park's value debated
Senate bill would let merged volunteer fire companies keep training money
Senior center may open next month
Tax proposals floated amid state money woes
Woman accused of sex with son