A Bingo Schism in the Catholic Church

You've heard the stories, surely, of how some Catholic Church bingo games in San Diego County have suffered in the competition with the free-wheeling, high-stakes Indian bingo games.

Well, in Escondido, one Catholic Church's bingo games are virtually busted, unable to compete with not only the Indian games miles away in Lakeside but with the bingo games offered through the neighboring Catholic Church in town.

Hey, Catholic Church-hall bingo vs. Indian reservation bingo is one thing, but Catholic bingo against Catholic bingo? What's the world coming to?

In the center of town is St. Mary's, the sixth-oldest Catholic Church in the county; it's got an elementary school that relies heavily on the success of bingo to help make ends meet. As recently as two years ago, upwards of $20,000 in bingo bucks went to the school.

Last year, only about $9,000 in bingo profit was made from the Thursday-night games; this year, not a dime has been forwarded so far to the school, according to the church pastor, Father Fred Florek.

"The promise of the future looks glum," he said. "We're of a mind to put it to rest, at least as far as having it at our church hall."

A couple of miles away is Resurrection Catholic Church and its nonprofit Patrons of the Resurrection Inc.--a dozen parishioners who volunteer their time to operate bingo games. The Resurrection volunteers are trying to make money for a church hall and, at the same time, hand out money to a dozen or more North County charities.

If St. Mary's is looking covetously at Resurrection's bingo bucks, no wonder. In January alone, the Resurrection bunch made more than $8,000 in net profit, according to bingo manager Bill Statile.

The Resurrection bingo games are played not at Resurrection--there's no church hall there--but at St. Petka's, a Serbian Orthodox monastery in neighboring San Marcos. (Bingo is very ecumenical, you see.) And, beginning Wednesday, weekly bingo games will also be offered by the group at the Carrousel Plaza, a small, new commercial complex on Escondido's east side where business isn't exactly booming and whose operators wouldn't mind an influx of foot traffic. (Not only is bingo ecumenical, but it's good for private business.)

The difference between Resurrection bingo and St. Mary's bingo? Resurrection pays out about $4,200 an evening in payoffs and St. Mary's pays out about $2,600 in prizes. (The maximum single-game payoff, according to state law, is $250; Indian bingo is not regulated by those same state laws and can offer payoffs in the tens of thousands of dollars.)

Because of the lure of the larger single-night payoffs, Resurrection draws close to 300 players for its Monday-night games, while St. Mary's church hall has a capacity of only 180 and is drawing far less than that. Weekly, more and more players are forsaking St. Mary's in favor of Resurrection, causing a few hard feelings among St. Mary's workers.

It's simple math: more people means Resurrection can afford to pay out more $250 payoffs, and more $250 payoffs bring in more people.

Statile, meanwhile, is confident of the continued success of Resurrection bingo. "If people are going to give money to the church, they'd rather sit around for three hours, play bingo, socialize and be entertained than just drop their money in a straw basket on Sunday and kiss it goodby," he remarked.

Polo, Anyone?

Developer Harry Collins and friends are quietly moving ahead with a proposal to build several polo fields alongside Fairbanks Ranch Country Club, in the flood plain of the San Dieguito River.

The 40-acre project is on land given to the City of San Diego by Watt Industries a few years back when it got permission from the city to construct the golf course.

Collins' Fairbanks Ranch Polo Club wants to lease the land back from the city in order to develop grassy fields for horsing around; the proposal will go before the City Council's Public Facilities and Recreation Committee on March 12 to firm up the lease. If approved, the grounds may be ready within a year.

The only other place in the county to play horse hockey is a privately owned polo field in Lakeside.

While a few polo ponies may be available at the grounds, you may want to place your order today for your your own pair of his-and-her thoroughbreds (Neiman-Marcus, starting at $37,500).

Musical Lessons

Jackie Johnson, a researcher at United States International University in San Diego, has found that junior high school students are better-behaved in class if they can listen to music while they learn.

Using a school in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, Johnson had one teacher play popular music during class time (Madonna, Stevie Wonder, Cyndi Lauper, Bruce Springsteen and the like) and another teacher play classical background music (Bach, Mozart, Vivaldi, et al.). The third teacher played no music (but may have whistled a little).

The classrooms with music had half the disciplinary problems as the classroom with no music, Johnson found over a nine-day test period.

He also found that the students preferred the Pointer Sisters to Handel. Heck, we could have told him that.

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