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Monday Night Bingo became legal this week. Estie Karpman, introducing the inaugural evening of bingo at the Jewish Congregation of Marco Island (JCMI), said, said it over the microphone.

“We’ve grown up, we’ve come of age – tonight begins 21 years of Monday Night Bingo.”

Not that bingo at JCMI was illegal before – as always, a uniformed Marco Island Police Department officer kept a watchful eye on the proceedings – but if Monday Night Bingo was a person, it would be legally allowed to have a glass of Manischewitz.

More: New beginnings: Jewish Congregation of Marco Island celebrates Rosh Hashanah

The legal drinking age in Florida, like the rest of the country, is 21, but the legal gambling age is 18. At a glance, few of the players had to worry about not meeting the age requirement. And the drinking at the JCMI bingo parlor was non-alcoholic, complimentary coffee and tea, plus soda and bottled water for sale.

Considering it is still mid-October, MNB started with a strong turnout, drawing 125 players, and causing former JCMI president Sue Baum to make an emergency run to pick up more snacks. In the height of the season, the games will bring in up to 300 players.

The first order of business for the players was helping themselves to a hot dog supper – kosher, of course, with Hebrew National all-beef franks – along with fruit, cookies and pastries. The room was filled with a buzz of conversation as people caught up with old friends and greeted new ones, but when the games began at 7 p.m., the sound was cut off as if by a knife, and the bingo players got down to the serious business of filling out their cards.

Current JCMI President Ted Bunten and his wife Jean sat at the end of one of the long tables, pre-marking their cards with the brightly colored daubers and rarin’ to start.

“Our bellies are full, and we’re ready to go,” said Ted.

By a show of hands, several of the players in the room, including Jeannie and Megan Landseadel of Kokomo, Indiana, have been coming out for MNB every year since it began in 1998, during the George H.W. Bush administration. The first bingo of the season, with a $40 cash payout, went to Valerie Barnes, formerly of Marco Island and now living in Naples, along with a round of applause as volunteer Bernie Seidman handed over her winnings.

On the second game, first-time player Pamela Clement was delighted to win, although she had to share her jackpot with two others who achieved bingo at the same time, cutting her winnings to $15. Jackpots were generally $40 to $50, with a Bonanza round paying $150 and the last game of the evening worth $200, based on the number of players that night.

When the price for the evening is $17, or $24 if you get an extra pack of bingo cards, and includes dinner, door prizes, and a little nosh or dessert during intermission, what’s not to like?

Monday Night Bingo at JCMI takes place at the temple, 991 Winterberry Dr. For more information, go online to marcojcmi.com call the JCMI office at 642-0800.

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