Monterey >> Let the games begin – bingo, that is.
White balls with numbers and letters are called out at the Monterey County Fair & Event Center. It started Friday night at the Pacific Bingo & Event Center, the 7,500-square-foot building that once housed the Monterey Bay Race Place for off-track horse racing betting. He is now at the Turf Club.
A preview for media and guests took place on Friday afternoon and the reception was positive. Three bingo games were played with electronic bingo tablets. As the caller calls the numbers, they are automatically displayed on electronic cards (up to 81 per set) and on a 12 foot wide screen.
Electronic players first connect on their electronic tablets with a code provided on their receipt. The caller then announces the type of game to be played, such as crazy six-pack or crazy letter T. Then the numbers begin.
“Bingo! a player exited after a few minutes of play. There was applause and laughter. Then a new game started.
Pacific Bingo, which operates Broadway Bingo in Salinas, operates the recently redecorated non-profit center. Proceeds will benefit other non-profit organizations in the department. These include Boys and Girls Clubs of Monterey County, Monterey County Food Bank, Active Seniors Inc., United Christian Samoan Church, and Monterey County Heritage Foundation.
The Heritage Foundation is the nonprofit arm of the Monterey County Fair & Event Center. It raises funds to construct new buildings for the fair, maintain the grounds and provide scholarships for students. In exchange, the non-profit organizations sponsor bingo sessions for those 18 and older.
“The beauty of (bingo) is that it raises money for all these charities,” said Andy Clarke, director of the Heritage Foundation.
“It took a long time in the works, so we’re all really excited,” said show manager Kelly Violini.
“The goal for us is to buy property…to build a house,” said Ieremia Aoelua of the United Church of Samoa.
The manager of Pacific Bingo & Event Center is Christine Pulealii, who is also the manager of Broadway Bingo in Salinas.
Two years ago, Pulealii said, she was looking for a new bingo venue. “I was at the fair and thought it would be a great place,” she said.
Talks with the fair have begun and the rest is bingo history.
“We’re hoping to (attract players) from Big Sur, Monterey and Seaside,” Pulealii said. “It’s a good way to raise money for them (the nonprofits). It’s better than a car wash.
Pulealii was calling bingo for 10 years before moving into management. She points out that the Monterey Bingo Center is the only one on the Monterey Peninsula with electronic tables. The others still use paper maps and hand marking. You can still play with paper cards if you want in the new facility.
Staffed by volunteers, the center will offer nine sessions a week, seven days a week, with afternoon and evening sessions on weekends. Twenty-seven different bingo games will be played each regular session.
The cost to pay varies. There are $30 and $50 packages as well as a per game fee. Payments should be $7,000 or more per night in cash. Up to 272 players at a time can participate. There is a semi-private room that can be reserved for 20 or more players.
Players can also earn points which can be redeemed for prizes and coupons.
Snacks, entrees and beverages, including free coffee, are available for purchase from the Portobello Restaurant in Salinas.
“It’s going to be a nice, comfortable setup,” said former Monterey County Supervisor Butch Lindley, who served as emcee at Friday’s preview. His wife, Vivien, sits on the fair’s board of directors. “It’s a fun way to spend an afternoon or evening,” Lindley said.
Doors open at 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. There will be Sneaks Bingo at 5:15 p.m. and previews at 6:15 p.m. The regular session will take place from 6:45 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday, doors open at 10 a.m. Previews begin at 12:15 p.m., with a regular session starting at 12:45 p.m. and ending at 4 p.m. Open bingo sessions begin at 4:15 p.m. Previews will begin at 6:15 p.m., and regular bingo sessions begin at 6:45 p.m. and end at 11 p.m. Security will be assured.
The center will have four blackout periods, including during the Fair and the Monterey Jazz Festival.
For more information, visit the center’s website at www.pacificbingo.net or call 831-241-6041.