TRURO – After close to four decades, the Truro and District Lions TV bingo had its last number called.
The game aired on Sept. 6 was the final broadcast of the program.
“It’s Canada-wide. Since 2013, cable TV subscriptions have seen a drop of 21 to 28 per cent each year,” said Joyce Gero, club treasurer. “Some (members) have been concerned about how much profit was or wasn’t there for a while now.”
The news of the discontinuation of the program has been a disappointing for some people – members and the public alike.
For Lion Chuck McManus, he was with the TV bingo from the get-go.
“The first job I had was counting the cards, and keeping track of how many were sold,” he said. “It was really successful over time. It was a lot of fun.”
Throughout the years, McManus held almost all positions when it came to TV bingo, having been the caller and working the computer. He didn’t, however, enjoy working the phones when the winners would call in.
When TV bingo first started, it raised about $10,000 in profit each year. Soon, that increased to $20,000, then $30,000, and $40,000. At its peak, after expenses were paid, the club still had a profit of $50,000 from TV bingo, which went back into the community in a variety of ways.
But that has changed over the years.
“We changed the bingo a few times, like when new competition came out,” said McManus.
But for the last five to 10 years, the program was still bringing in profit of about $25,000. Roughly 600 cards went out each week, with between 700 and 800 for the final broadcast. Of those distributed, 410 were sold, with revenue (before expenses) coming in at $2,050.
Things, however, have changed enough and the profit just isn’t there anymore with TV bingo. The average weekly sales over the past year was 283 cards, which was pretty much the club’s break-even point.
Radio bingo was introduced 10 years ago and has been strong since.
With rising costs for cards and envelopes could no longer be ignored. A few months ago, the club, in an effort to boost sales, placed colourful new signs in vendor windows and Eastlink launched some on-air promotions.
Neither move, however, resulted in a significant increase in players. The decision was made in July to discontinue the TV game.
“It’s not a change we take lightly,” said David Sullivan, president of the club. “We hope players will understand it is something we have to do.”
“In a way,” Urquhart added, “our bingos are not just fundraisers, but also a service to community members who can’t get out to other venues. We have loyal players who welcome that hour of recreation each week, whether they win or not. We didn’t want to take their fun away from them, which is one reason we’ve kept it going as long as we have.”
Thanks to TV bingo, the Lions club has been able to provide support in the community – they’ve assisted the food bank, the band shell at Victoria Park, and the hospital, among others.
“We couldn’t do that without TV bingo,” said McManus. “And with all projects we do, Eastlink has always been a great part of it.”
“Our association with Eastlink is ongoing,” Urquhart said. “If we need something broadcasted, we can just call them and they’ll broadcast it.”
Throughout the years, the biggest jackpot the club was able to give away due to regulations was $5,000. The jackpot for the final broadcast was $2,900, and numbers were called until a winner was declared.
To play the Lions radio bingo, tune in to Cat Country 99.5 Tuesdays at 7 p.m. The club also hosts a 50/50 bingo Sundays at the club at 1 p.m.