Since last April at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Golden Rotary Club has been offering bingo online as a way to keep people busy and entertained since the first stay-at-home order.
In the months since, what started as a simple game run out of the Mount 7 Spirits Craft Distillery and streamed on Facebook has evolved into something much bigger.
“It took off almost immediately and just began to grow to the point where we had to pause so BC Lotteries could review what were doing so we could keep it going,” said Greg Ehman, with the Golden Rotary Club.
“We had to make the decision on whether or not we wanted to keep going the way we were or expand. Golden is great but it doesn’t have the numbers to sustain growth and that’s when we started offering it to other Rotary clubs.”
Since the summer, Rotary has seen communities like Invermere, Radium, Cranbrook, Rossland, Trail, Grand Forks and most recently Nelson join the fold.
Ehman estimates that a good majority of the southern part of the province are now taking part in the Golden Rotary bingo.
At that rate, bingo quickly outgrew its licensing, with Golden Rotary recently making the decision to take the leap and once again increase their licensing.
The jump means the club has had to purchase a new bingo machine and now has fewer restrictions, with higher prize pots reaching up to $20,000 between the two games that they put on each Friday.
The club is working closes with BC Gaming, who recently audited and assessed their system.
The Rotary club has a call with the organization every week to keep up with what they have to do to keep the game running smoothly.
“It’s been amazing and absolutely incredible to see it grow and see new communities wanting to join all the time,” said Ehman.
“Kamloops just tried to join, but they were too big, so instead we got them up and running with their own game.”
The money that Rotary has raised through the bingo will go directly back into the community, with Ehman saying that focus will be on community projects.
Already the bingo has facilitated projects such as the Angel Tree and helped people in the community facing medical challenges accessing care.
Rotarians are also looking at establishing scholarships and bursaries for local students and looking into supporting infrastructure projects in town.
For Ehman, his favourite part of the game has been watching how it’s brought people together in a time where we physically must remain apart.
“Giving people the chance to connect not just with Golden, but across communities, we have families playing bingo together across Canada which I think is pretty neat,” he said.
“People coming together, while also being able to help the community, a lot of cool things have come from this.”
Moving forward, Ehman says the club plans to keep the game going as long as our current COVID world persists.
“Once these restrictions lift and people can get out, people are going to get out and won’t be playing bingo on Friday nights anymore,” said Ehman.
“We’ll see how things go.”
For now, tickets can be purchased online through Shopify, with updates to the weekly game posted on the Rotary Community Online Bingo Facebook page.