DEIRDRE Yes, and he was referring to mood — like, it doesn't need to be pin-drop quiet in there — but the sentiment applies to their demographic as well. While Gary Lamson claims there's been "an influx of young people" at the bingo hall, he admits that "I still think the perception of bingo is old people." Definitely true. And, according to Paul Lamson, "they're not spending as much money" as they used to, a consequence of the recession. There's no denying that the bingo hall needs to attract younger players, both to develop a new customer base and to up their revenue.

NICK On the other hand, some things about the bingo hall seem almost willfully out of touch with the younger generation. The preponderance of comfort food, surely, but also the recycling thing. I was a little astounded to find just how much paper that place throws away at the end of the night — all the evening's cards and schedules. Despite the presence of multiple industrial-sized waste cans around the room's perimeter, each table has its own trash bag Scotch-taped to its end, apparently for convenience sake only. I know Gary Lamson said he looked into a recycling program and found it was too expensive for their business model, but to our generation, that sort of thing sticks out. This relates to one of the most persistent aspects of our experience: the wrestling match I kept having with the question of whether bingo was a social good. I suspect this isn't a popular concern with most bingo players, but as you know, I can get caught up on these things.

DEIRDRE I do. I assume your wrestling match continues. On one hand, I think bingo as it's played in South Portland, and with South Portland being representative of similar halls around the state and probably the country, has redeeming features. It gets people out of the house, for one thing, to do an "activity" (however inactive). There are relationships forged at the bingo hall — these people care about each other. We heard evidence of this one evening, when the deaths of two regulars were announced by the caller before the last game of the night.

NICK That was affecting, yes. I suppose that in an era where virtually unlimited digital gaming options await in the comfort of your home, spending three hours playing low-key, (relatively) low-stakes bingo with 100 to 200 people is an uplifting alternative. It's not the richest example of social life, but it counts. I guess I'm inherently suspicious of a service whose sole function is to gather a collective sum of money, cream some off the top, and award it back to one individual. Did it make you feel competitive?

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