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CGAA Bingo falls victim to economy

After more than a year of financial struggles, CGAA Bingo -- the Cottage Grove Athletic Association's primary fundraiser -- succumbed to the strain of a slumping economy last month after 17 years in business.

A dip in business last year forced the charitable gambling operation to vacate its full-time home next to Rainbow Foods on East Point Douglas Road for a part-time tenancy at the VFW Red Barn.

Gambling and bingo hall director Mary Perren attributed the hall's declining revenues to the statewide smoking ban that went into effect in October 2007 -- business dropped 50 percent, Perren said, in the ban's first month.

Now, Perren says, she believes it's tightening budgets that have caused receipts to plummet and CGAA Bingo's doors to close on Jan. 29.

"I think it's the economy, the unsure economy," Perren said. "And a lot of our customers were people who might have been living on their investments, retirement sorts of things.

"People just don't have the discretionary income."

The bingo hall acted as the athletic association's largest fundraiser, bringing in between $110,000 and $150,000 per year on average, Perren said. The money raised was used for extras like batting cages and irrigation for fields, meaning the hall's closure shouldn't result in an increase in registration fees, the gambling director said.

CGAA will still raise funds through the sale of pull tabs at American Motorsports Bar and Grill in Cottage Grove and Franke's Bar in St. Paul Park. And Perren said the bingo operation is still licensed by the state, meaning it could restart at the VFW if the economy improves soon.

Even with that ray of hope, Perren said the last day of bingo was a gloomy one.

"It was probably the saddest thing we've ever done," she said.