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Dana WilsonAhhh! The surpassing joy, the ecstasy, the simple thrill of screaming, “Bingo!” The exaltation, personal thrill, and adrenaline rush of winning a game that not only benefits you, but a game that has been instrumental in financing many of society’s improvements is one not easily surpassed.

Bingo is a storied game. Nearly 500 years ago, the incredibly popular game was invented in Italy in the form of a national lottery: “Lo Giuoco Lotto Italia.” Then, the victorious cry was “Beano!” as beans were used as markers, and when the game made its way to France in the 1770s, those stylizers and innovators, the French, modified the board to the standard three-row, nine vertical, that make up the bingo card of today.

Gaming, and Bingo, in particular, has had a vital role to play in Quebec; first in the church under the auspices of Father Antoine Labelle who in 1882 established a national lottery to fund the Societe de colonisation du diocese de Montreal which was accepted by the Provincial Assembly, but rejected by the Legislative Council. However, Cure Labelle was recruited to use gaming to benefit the Saint-Jean-Baptise Association, a Quebec nationalist group. Has anyone of a certain age not attended a church bingo that benefits the church, or some other segment of society in some way?

The social benefits

While Bingo has comprehensively demonstrated its penchant for accruing benefits to the organizations, the general public, and the societies that incorporate it as fundraising tools, the salient fact of the matter is that playing Bingo is fun – the main reason that it has been such an effective fundraiser.

Bingo has certainly benefited students and their teachers who use it as an effective teaching tool. “Bingo can be used for teaching a variety of concepts, including basic shape or number recognition, mathematical operations, and word recognition.” This is a direct quote from an online resource for educators.

Mental health benefits

Bingo has some not-so-surprising mental health benefits as well, and not only for students. “Bingo is great for reinforcing skills such as concentration and short-term memory, which tend to decline with age.” This quote is from a retirement home site that uses Bingo in the fight against mental decline for its residents and guests. Mental acuity is not just a concern for seniors – anyone, regardless of age, can benefit from an activity that sharpens concentration and mental agility.

There are also many social benefits to Bingo, as well. However, those social benefits, playing competitively with friends and family in bingo halls, will not be with Quebecers much longer. “As it stands, the roughly 50 Bingo halls in Quebec are on their last legs.” Provincial regulations have made alcohol-soaked, smoke-filled bingo halls that made their clients weep with joy, with frustration, with the effects of cigarette smoke on eyes already straining to see multiple cards … a thing of the past.

Bingo during Covid-19

And, these days, there is also COVID-19 and its variants. “Quebec has 655 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of people infected to 410,180 since the start of the pandemic”, according to CTV News. The mental benefits of Bingo might be somewhat offset by the physical hazards of gaming in enclosed spaces with multiple players in close proximity. While vaccines and other measures are lessening the risks, there are real concerns about activities that bring many people together at once.

With COVID-19 concerns, no-smoking rules in effect, and governmental regulations that only allow Bingo operating licenses to non-profit organizations, has a death knell been sounded for this historic, storied game that has done so much for society and its players over the years?

Fortunately, there are options that entail no physical risks to the player from contagions, in venues that are subject only to the restrictions that are enforced by the players themselves – their very own residence.

This is the 21at century, and the mental health benefits of Bingo are but a few keystrokes of a computer keyboard away. Playing Bingo online is safe, secure, and still very exciting. An overview of the best online bingo sites in Canada can be found at this site that organizes various bingo options by category. The site even tells you of its selection criteria, so you as the player can make a reasoned decision about the very best site to exercise your bingo-playing muscles.

There is reason that Bingo has been with us for just shy of five hundred years. Practice your joie de vivre with a jeux de vivre, and remember that Bingo is the game-o.

Dana Wilson is a freelance writer.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the authors’ alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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