Bingo Lachine, considered one of the busiest bingo halls in Quebec, will soon be undergoing a 21st century makeover. In the new year, owners of the popular facility on Saint-Joseph Street plan to install state-of-the-art television screens, offer new gaming formats and even different selections at its restaurant.
Currently, the average age of visitors at Bingo Lachine is about 65. Marc-André Clément, the director of operations, hopes the improvements will entice more 40-somethings.
« Young people see bingo as an old person’s game. It’s not. We just have to work harder to entertain. Maybe we’ll even put on some musical shows, » says Clément.
The 30-year-old is part of a team of investors, Groupe Bouclé, that own and operate five gaming centres in the Greater Montreal area. Bingo Lachine is by far the group’s most lucrative. It registers an average of 15,000 visitors each month.
« I’ve been coming here since I was a youngster with my mother. I work on weekends so I have time during the week. I say why not? » expresses Lachine resident Brandee Priesler.
She usually attends on Wednesday afternoons, when Bingo Lachine is near capacity.
Across the province, it’s a different story. The bingo industry is struggling. In 1998, there were 163 bingo halls in Quebec. There are currently less than 50 in operation.
« A lot of people are hooked on Netflix and their smartphones. But those are activities you do when you’re alone. Here, you get to meet people and socialize. It’s a social game. It’s for friends, » says Clément.
As part of his rebranding efforts in 2019, the director of operations also plans to promote the role that bingo halls play in a community. Clément says Bingo Lachine donates close to a million dollars per year to local charities.
« People probably don’t know that. We help finance hockey teams, community groups, even the churches. If they did, they would see us in a completely different light, » he says.
By law, bingo halls in Quebec are mandated to donate 45 percent of their earnings to charity after prize money has been paid out.
A timeframe for the work has not been fixed nor has the budget.