BALD KNOB, AR (KAIT) – Senior citizens in Bald Knob have gathered for years to play bingo as a fun pastime, but what's at stake during some of the games has drawn criticism.
Gambling worries have prompted the Bald Knob City Council to ban bingo games with cash prizes. The council approved the ban this week after receiving complaints about gambling at the local senior citizens' center.
"We agreed with the fact that there was enough people disgruntled and unhappy about it that it needed to be something that we as a city did not need to be associated with," said Doyle Wallace, mayor of Bald Knob.
Wallace says, for almost a year, the town's senior center has allowed people to compete for cash every Tuesday evening – but not any longer.
"The Tuesday night thing got a little out-of-hand. It got to be a little bit more than we had anticipated," the mayor said. "We started getting complaints, and those complaints got a little bigger and a little louder and a little stronger."
Wallace says the center lost some of its regular diners because of concerns about gambling. Four local ministers even sent him formal letters voicing their disapproval.
"I guess the only complaint would be that the people from the churches said gambling is not right," Wallace explained. "Gambling is a sin, according to some people."
The growing chorus of concern prompted the mayor to bring up the issue Monday at the City Council meeting, where members voted unanimously to discontinue the Tuesday night games and ban cash prizes altogether.
"When you find and conclude that there's more people who are unhappy with a situation than you're making happy, it's time to start changing your thoughts," Wallace said, "and then, if there's something that can be done about it without hurting anyone, that's the way we looked at it as a mayor and council."
The ban will officially take effect at the end of the month. The mayor says bingo can still be played at the Senior Center as long as no cash prizes are awarded.