There will always be bingo

With a sudden blast of air the numbered balls began to flurry, hopping and dancing inside the clear plastic container like corn kernels exploding in a popper.

One rose through a conduit.

Christel Cordrey retrieved it.

"N36," she solemnly intoned. "N-three-six."

Her rhythmic cadence and repetition brought to mind a radio baseball announcer reciting the batter’s count. "Three balls, two strikes . . . Three-and-two."

The stock market has taken a nose dive.

Economists are wringing their hands.

"I23 . . . I-two-three."

Last week was the worst in Wall Street hist—.

"Bingo!" a voice rang out.

From her elevated desk the caller scanned the smoky room where charitable bingo is played seven days a week. About 65 familiar faces, mostly women, many of them retirees, sat at long tables beneath a low-ceiling bank of fluorescent lights.

Sandy Vereen put down her purple felt-tipped marker and trashed her 36 paper game cards, all worthless.

"I hate bingo," the Fort Worth woman said with a laugh and dug a plastic fork into her snack-bar chili pie.

As gasoline prices spiked earlier this year, some area bingo halls saw a decline in attendance. But a troubled economy and predictions of a deepening recession haven’t discouraged many from participating in the oldest form of legalized gambling in Texas.

Getting their fix

Vereen is an avid, longtime bingo player. So is Jan Elliston. Both play several afternoons a week at the Family Bingo Center in west Fort Worth. Others play every day, some all day, session after session after session — traveling from one hall to another — shelling out up to $100, sometimes more, a day on paper and electronic bingo cards and pull-tabs tickets.

"The die-hards," said Bobby Cornelius, a bingo hall employee, "want their bingo fix."

Reno Bingo. Five-Star Bingo. Flamingo Bingo. Lucky Shamrock Bingo. Bingo Bucks.

Lucky winners can pocket up to $700 in cash per game.

The federal government hasn’t offered to bail out the losers.

"Beer, bingo and cigarettes. People will always find money for that," Vereen said. "Some of us are going to play, no matter what."

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