By Mike Hoeft
Before Indian casinos, a few enterprising tribes got their start in gambling by opening bingo parlors. A group of women on the Oneida Indian Reservation just outside Green Bay, Wisconsin, introduced bingo in 1976 simply to pay a few bills. Bingo not only paid the light bill at the struggling civic center but was soon financing vital health and housing services for tribal elderly and poor.
The Bingo Queens of Oneida: How Two Moms Started Tribal Gaming in Wisconsin tells the story through the eyes of Sandra Ninham and Alma Webster, the Oneida women who had the idea for a bingo operation run by the tribe. Bingo became the tribe’s first moneymaker on a reservation where about half the population was living in poverty.
Author Mike Hoeft traces the historic struggles of the Oneida from their alliance with America during the Revolutionary War to their journey to Wisconsin and details the lives of inspirational tribal members who worked alongside Ninham and Webster. The Bingo Queens of Oneida is the story of not only how one game helped revive the Oneida economy but also how one game strengthened the Oneida community.