WINSLOW — It was a clear and crisp night Oct. 20 at the Winslow Elementary School cafeteria as teacher Patty Scully called out numbers and letters. Students and their parents studied cards and helpings of hot dogs and pizza were served on paper plates.

Hunter Ward, 11, of Winslow, wearing a “Superman” T-shirt, raised his hand in the air.

“Bingo!”

The bingo night fundraiser on Oct. 20, attracting some 300 people, was the first at the school in nearly two years following a change in state law. When the state shut down a fundraising bingo night at Winslow Elementary School, the Parent-Teacher Organization director refused to stand down.

“My kids are excited, the parents are excited. Everyone’s excited,” said Jenn Tyler, PTO director. “This benefits all the schools in Maine.”

With the help of Rep. Catherine Nadeau, D-Winslow, school staff and PTO members persuaded the Legislature to amend a law that requires organizations running regular bingo nights to get annual licenses.

Paying for a $400 bingo license wasn’t an option for the PTO, as the law had required. The PTO had been using the bingo nights to raise funds for programs that students otherwise wouldn’t get to experience, such as Wildlife Encounters presentations, which cost about $1,400, and a Family Fun Fest that cost about $1,500.

The bingo nights, which have been held two to four times per year since the new elementary school was built in 1993, brought in about a quarter of the nonprofit’s yearly revenue. Families pay $1 per board and can buy food at a concession stand for dinner.

“It was a great family event. From our perspective, we saw it as a great way to bring families together, and there’s both math and language involved in it,” said Kyle Price, the school’s principal.

In December 2015, the PTO was forced to stop its bingo nights when a state inspector found out about the practice and told them it was illegal without a license and sent a copy of the state law to the school.

While bingo is regulated by the state’s gambling commission, Tyler said they don’t play for cash prizes. Children win trinkets like stick-on mustaches or funny glasses, and they keep playing until everyone gets something.

The recent change exempts elementary and middle schools from the license and registration requirement if the proceeds are used to support a PTO or pay for the prizes, if the games are offered just to students, staff and families, and if the prizes don’t exceed $25.

Madeline St. Amour can be contacted at 861-9239 or at:

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Twitter: madelinestamour