By Brian Swartz
Weekly Staff Editor
INDIAN ISLAND — For one bingo player, Sunday, March 3, was the perfect day to be at Penobscot High Stakes Bingo: She took home the largest jackpot ever paid out since the Penobscot Nation established a gaming facility 40 years ago.
The player, who asked not to be identified, “was playing an Over the Rainbow Progressive Pull Tab,” said Miles Francis Jr., assistant general manager at Penobscot High Stakes Bingo. “It’s a dollar a ticket.”
For her dollar, the bingo player won $27,500, Francis indicated. “The biggest [jackpot] we’ve had previously was $25,000, which was 15 or so years ago.”
The jackpot was paid out during a high-stakes bingo weekend that attracted “about 1,100 to 1,200 people every day” to the Socklalexis Bingo Palace, he said. Such weekends take place about every six weeks and draw players from as far away as the Canadian Maritimes and New Jersey and New York.
The stakes are literally high. “We play for more than $250,000 in prizes over the weekend,” Francis said. “It’s all in cash.”
Penobscot High Stakes Bingo has arrangements with several tour operators to bring players by bus to the Bangor region on the high-stakes weekends. “That’s about 70 percent of our business, people coming by bus,” he said.
“They stay in local hotels; we take 400-500 [hotel] rooms in the Bangor area every bingo weekend,” Francis said. “They stay in the local area and shop in the local area.” Many bingo players include a stop at Hollywood Casino on their itinerary, he said.
For bingo players traveling to Indian Island for Penobscot High Stakes Bingo, “the bus trip itself, it’s camaraderie. They come up with their friends. They spend time together,” Francis said.
At the Socklalexis Bingo Palace, “we have about 50 employees working on” on the high-stakes weekends, he said. The Panda Garden Restaurant in Bangor caters Chinese food; the Indian Island Cafe supplies hot dogs, hamburgers, french fries and pulled pork sandwiches; and Tim’s Store in Old Town provides pizzas, salads and sandwiches.
Penobscot High Stakes Bingo has scheduled games for:
• May 18-19 (Mother’s Day Super Bingo);
• July 27-28;
• Sept. 14-15;
• Oct. 26-27;
• Dec. 7-8.
“The July weekend we have coming up is our 40th anniversary,” Francis said. “We are one of the oldest Indian high-stakes bingo in the country.”
For more information, call 827-7750 or go to www.penobscotbingo.com.