Bingo Riot of 1945


After a six-month shut down on all gambling in Evansville, Republican Mayor Mason Reichert announced that fraternal organizations and patriotic non-profits were again allowed to hold bingo games. 


The Young Men’s Democratic Club was denied permits to hold their own bingo game and claimed partisan bias was behind the decision. In protest, the Young Democrats widely advertised that they would hold a game at the Union Club, then located on First and Main streets on Monday, June 11, 1945. Mayor Reichert then announced police would be on hand to arrest all “operators, players and spectators” of the unsanctioned bingo game.

The incident became known as the Bingo Riot. Reporters of the time estimated that as many as 9,000 spectators arrived to witness the confrontation, many of which crowded on fire escapes and stood on parked cars for a better view. Rioters attempted to prevent the arrest of the bingo organizers.

This photo shows a group of young people overturning a police radio cruiser, one of two damaged during the riot.  After eight bingo operators later turned themselves in to police and were arrested, their bingo equipment was confiscated. Several others involved in the riot outside of the Union Club were also arrested for disorderly conduct and damage to public property.

History Lesson is a pictorial history of Evansville compiled by Daniel Smith, local history and digitization librarian at the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library.

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