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Online Journalism

reflections on a changing medium

I have chosen to do my course project on bingo players. As I said in my original “story ideas” post, churches, firehalls and community centers frequently host bingo games, sometimes even several times per day. Although I’m not sure how it compares with other cities, I do know that Buffalo has no shortage of bingo events. After some online research, I’ve come to find that it’s possible to play bingo somewhere within the city at almost any given time virtually any day of the week (see for yourself! is a Buffalo bingo site that has a great calendar of events). In order for these games to survive economically, bingo must be pretty popular. Enough people must be playing and spending money to sustain the jackpots that are offered at every game.

To me, this is interesting, and I’m speculating that Buffalo’s bingo scene is widely overlooked and unconsidered by the general non-bingoing public. I think that other people, like me, who don’t frequently play bingo might also be curious about the bingo scene.

Who plays bingo? What’s the draw? How seriously do people take the game? Do they treat it more as harmless entertainent, or as a form of gambling?

After two nights dabbing away at bingo boards in church basements, I’ve found that there is a wide audience of bingo players. Most bingo players that I have encountered have been elderly, but it isn’t too unusual to see a few young people playing as well, or to see young mothers with children playing bingo. Many of the players that I have spoken to exhibit a sort of “this is my chance!” mentality, counting more on “the law of averages” than the statistics of the matter, forgetting that thirty people also need B9 to cover all four corners of their board. At the bingo games that I have been to there has been a good mix of bingo fanatics and casual players. Some of the bingo fanatics have bingo dabber caddys, bingo t-shirts and even “lucky” objects like stuffed animals or plastic dolls. Most of them purchase four or more boards and tape them together before the games begin in order to form one larger, more manageable board. These visual aspects of the scene along with the tension inherent the gaming environment makes this a good topic for my project.

Although I faced a bit of a challenge getting my first pictures (I was asked not to take pictures at the first bingo game that I attended), I do look forward to trying news ways of interacting with the players and those who organize the games in order to get better material for my project. I am also quite excited to start talking to the players more “on the record.” Many of them seem like very interesting people and I can’t wait to hear their stories and ideas about what bingo is all about.


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