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Bingo transformed our finances and was a major factor in our endeavour to establish an Irish Cultural Centre. In March 1987 we became aware that Kings Bingo was opening a new bingo hall in NE Calgary and we arranged to become a member of the Kings Bingo Association. This required us to obtain a Bingo Licence from Alberta Gaming Commission. Ann McCullagh became our Bingo Committee Chairperson assisted by Audrey Evans, Ann Greer and Mary Kane. Running the bingo involved organizing fifteen volunteers every two weeks and looking after the necessary paperwork. The bingo took in over $20,000 the first year and by 1992 was adding $100,000 per year to the ICS coffers.

Bingo Chair Ann McCullagh awards a Trip-for-Two to Reno, Nevada to bingo player Stella Streich

Ann McCullagh recalls that bingo was a great way for clubs to raise money in those days. Many of our members were involved in running bingo or being floor volunteers for the dance schools of other clubs. That gave us experienced people to begin with. Smokers and non-smokers alike volunteered to spend an evening getting a lung full of cigarette smoke while speedily attending to the players often impatient demands. While the bingo games were being played we sold ‘Bonanza” tickets to the customers. Sometimes the volunteers would break the monotony by competing to reach a customer’s raised hand indicating a purchase. Volunteers were not supposed to socialize but our volunteers managed to enjoy the occasional huddle for a chat. We were sometimes chastised for disturbing the concentration of serious players with bursts of laughter. It was great how everyone pitched in willingly – even if we had the odd grumble about the smoke. People realized that if we were going to get an Irish Centre we needed to raise funds and they were willing to put in the effort.

Bingo Volunteers. Front Row - Pat Adams, Ann Cowman, Fiona Cowman, Lynn Waters, Eileen Flanagan, Rory Clancy. Back Row – Robert Rumgay

Encouraged by our success with bingo, and with the help of Ann McCullagh and Sean McComish, we proceeded to pursue having a casino fund raiser. Carol O’Callaghan volunteered to be our Casino lead person and was instrumental in our successful application for a casino licence.

Sean McComish remembers the implications involved in a running casino event. At that time each casino was a stand-alone affair and each association having a casino was responsible payment for the hall and staff and potential loss. The dates were assigned randomly and it was a matter of luck to be assigned weekdays with low attendance or more profitable weekend days. Also, if patrons happened to be unusually lucky the event could generate a loss. We had to take out a loan to meet our financial obligations and insurance to address the risk. Our first casino was held at the Cash Casino Place on Blackfoot Trail in May 1988. The casino required about fifty volunteers to be cashiers, run chips to the tables and assist in the cash count at the end of the night. Shifts were for six hours, noon to six and six to midnight. Carol O’Callaghan collected the required Volunteer Worker Application Forms and organised our volunteers. She also managed the paperwork and liaison with the Gaming Commission. Thanks to Carol and her volunteers, things went smoothly and the ICS netted over $20,000 in revenue for our first casino.

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