bingo evansville indiana

Bingo Halls in Evansville (Indiana)

Hall Name Town Address
Bingo at the Vand Evansville 4-H Center, 201 E Boonville-New Harmony Rd 47711-9115
Germania Maennerchor Bingo Evansville 916 N Fulton Ave 47710-1854
St Agnes Catholic Church Evansville 1620 Glendale Ave 47712-4141,
St Benedict Church Evansville 530 S Harlan (School) 47714-1516
St Boniface Catholic Church Evansville 2031 W Michigan St (School) 47712-5233
St Joseph Catholic Church 607 E Iowa Street 607 E Iowa Street 47711-6148,
Veterans Council Evansville 300 Court Street 47708-1128

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Bingo has bizarre, violent history in Evansville | Webb

The Evansville Police Department released body cam footage of a shooting incident at an Evansville VFW. Evansville Courier & Press

It’s already terrible, but it could have been worse.

Masses of people were jammed inside the Wabash Avenue VFW Sunday night when police say 70-year-old John Michael Burghardt unleashed a revolver and shot Paul Glover, 48, in the abdomen.

Glover reportedly wasn’t Burghardt’s intended target. Burghardt allegedly tried to shoot multiple other people, police said, but some of the players tackled and restrained the gunman, preventing anyone else from getting hurt.

Glover is expected to survive, police said during a Monday press conference.

I’m sure the players never thought they’d witness a shooting. After all, they were just there to do what they do every Sunday night: play bingo.

The classic game serves as a fundraiser for a lot of local nonprofits. It’s innocuous and fun.

But for some strange reason, that harmless game has a bizarre, violent history in the Evansville area.

A cigarette away from disaster

This photo shows a group of young people overturning a police radio cruiser, one of two damaged during the riot. After eight bingo operators later turned themselves in to police and were arrested, their bingo equipment was confiscated. Several others involved in the riot outside of the Union Club were also arrested for disorderly conduct and damage to public property. (Photo: Provided)

On June 11, 1945, the city unraveled, and it all started with a City Council ruling.

The year before, the council ratified an anti-gambling statute that outlawed “games of chance” for any organization aside from a few church groups. Those games included bingo.

Republican Mayor Manson Reichart passionately supported the move. A few business leaders did too, including at least one that felt the repercussions of that.

In a 1940s version of sending 100 pizzas to the home of an enemy, Henry Bentley had to shutter his produce business for a day when pro-gambling advocates tied up his phone lines for hours. The pranksters called over and over and asked the same question: “what time is it?”

In the summer of 1945, the Young Democrats Club planned an equally passive aggressive, if more direct, form of protest.

They were going to show Reichart. They were going to have a bingo game of their own.

Reichart and police knew about the June 11 game ahead of time. Officers posted around at the union hall at Fourth and Main, ready to arrest the game’s organizers as soon as the first number was called.

What they didn’t prepare for was a giant angry mob.

Thousands of residents swarmed the building, trying to block police from entering. A few other fellas plowed through barricades and flipped over police cruisers, sending pools of gasoline snaking through the streets.

One man decided to take it further. When he saw the gas, he lit a cigarette and sent it twirling toward the accelerant-laced pool. An officer managed to fetch it before an explosion lit up the night sky.


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Robbed of history

In a nonviolent example, bingo also played a small role in why we’re missing a key piece of Evansville history.

Indiana failed to progress much in 50 years. By 1991, the state still had laws in place governing who could and who couldn’t throw a bingo game.

Nonprofits could have them – as long as a for-profit company didn’t sweep in and try to run those games.

That wrinkle derailed a bingo operation controlled by the P-47 Heritage Commission: a group that wanted to acquire, restore and publicly display a P-47 Thunderbolt — the very plane Evansville workers churned out during World War II.

To raise money, the commission ran a bingo game once-a-week at the Coliseum in Downtown Evansville, but state officials soon got wind that a professional company, not the non-profit, reportedly handled the operation.

Then-Secretary of State / now-mayor of Indianapolis Joe Hogsett filed a complaint with former Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Stan Levco. Just like that, the game was over.

The commission still managed to buy a P-47 that had been yanked from a lake in Florida. Former president Frank Whetsel’s heirs stored it at Franklin Industrial Park – where it was destroyed in a fire in 1997.

Sunday's shooting is the latest example of a harmless game getting roped into violent and strange situations. ]]>