How One of Your Best Casino Guests is Spending Money Elsewhere – Part II


Drive-in bingo is where my gaming money is going these days

By Kathy Thill, Guest Contributor

People seem surprised when I tell them that I spend my Saturday nights sitting in my car, in a darkened parking lot, alone for hours … PLAYING BINGO!

Who am I? I am 65+, single, female, middle upper class and willing to spend $400 for an afternoon of entertainment at a casino. I used to visit my local Tribal casinos several times a month. But I’m staying home for now, because I don’t feel safe going back. (You can read my previous article here).

So how am I spending my gambling dollars?

My local bingo hall has pivoted in a big way. They created Drive-In Bingo. In Contra Costa County (Northern California), no social activities can occur inside but outside is allowed. My hall has created a safe, fun atmosphere for those of us who just couldn’t be without our weekly game!

There are NO cash transactions except payouts. All buy-ins are done online. You pick your day and date from a drop down menu on their website. Each driver of the vehicle has a buy-in that includes the parking space (which are limited). Each passenger must have their own buy-in purchased in advance as well. Cards cannot be shared. All players must be 18. Premium flash games (pull tabs) are sold in advance as well as no cash sales are allowed on the property.

What does a night of Drive-In Bingo look like?

When you pull into the parking lot, you follow a single line check in. The attendants are masked and gloved. Your package of items including a free dauber are wrapped in a black garbage bag. The idea being is that you take your trash home with you. Parking spaces are marked with six feet open space in between each vehicle. Cardboard lap pads are provided. The program for the session has the rules and county regulations listed on the back with the FM station information and all the caveats that will be mentioned below. The front shows the games and payouts and pattern.

You are directed to put your car in accessory mode once parked and tune in to a particular FM station. The caller’s voice is transmitted via speakers strategically placed within the parking lot and the FM station. In addition, their Facebook live streams the event and there is a Zoom meeting code that can be entered to watch the board as numbers are called. You are encouraged to bring your own food and beverages as you are unable to purchase anything on site.

And the winner is …

If you get a bingo, you honk your horn like a crazy person until one of the many parking lot attendants come to your car and verify your bingo.

If you need a parking lot attendant to come to your car without a bingo, you put your hazard lights on. My hall has flash games and the attendants will do payouts in the form of more flash games only.

Safety first!

There are no breaks so restrooms can be used before, during or after the games. Any time you leave your car you must be masked and observe social distancing guidelines. Hand sanitizing stations are plentiful inside where people line up for the restrooms. Every few games we are directed to start our engine to make sure we haven’t drained the battery … yes, I needed a jump one night. The games are less complicated than when we played inside due to the time needed to verify cards, the size of the parking lot and the amount of wave offs are increased without everyone seeing the board.

There are games on Friday and Saturday nights and now a Sunday Matinee.

If you are missing your bingo players, they are really missing you. This is a great way to pivot and utilize a section of your parking lot. If you build it, THEY WILL COME!