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Grand Forks bartender wins record $55,986 bingo jackpot at Kelly's Bar

Bingo player and local bartender Jessica "JP" Pelletier was slow to celebrate Tuesday night when Lee Spartz called out her final number at Kelly's Bar in downtown Grand Forks.

Denny's Tavern bartender Jessica "JP" Pelletier was the winner of a record $55,986 jackpot bingo Tuesday night. She said she and her longtime boyfriend, Noel Hart, may use the money for a down payment on a house. (Janelle Vonasek/Grand Forks Herald)

Bingo player and local bartender Jessica "JP" Pelletier was slow to celebrate Tuesday night when Lee Spartz called out her final number at Kelly's Bar in downtown Grand Forks.

With just one number to spare, the lucky B6 may have been enough to cover her card in aqua daubs and win the record $55,986 jackpot, but Pelletier didn't want to get ahead of herself.

"B-b-b-bingo," she shouted.

Then, more quietly: "I think."

And more quietly still: "I think. I think."


"I didn't think I had won it. I thought I daubed the wrong number or something," an exuberant Pelletier said Tuesday night while sitting with boyfriend Noel Hart and two girlfriends in her regular neighborhood bar. "I did that once years ago, but that was only for $20."

This time, the win was for real. Or, in gaming parlance, "that's a good bingo."

Winning moment

"It was like a scene out of a movie. Lee was breaking a sweat, and I couldn't even hold onto the card because I was shaking," said Charlie Miller, another gaming employee for Development Homes Inc. "JP works in the service industry, so a lot of people know her. She got a pretty big roar when we verified the bingo."

The jackpot for the progressive game has been growing steadily since it last went out Sept. 7. A winner must get the blackout in "54 numbers or less."

DHI Gaming Director Janelle Mitzel said the jackpot is the largest in the history of Go Go Progressive Bingo - a game that's played regularly at Rumors, El Roco, Kelly's, Johnny's Lounge and Charlie Brown's.

"Statistically, this should have gone out by now," Mitzel had said earlier in the day. "The highest it usually gets is about $17,000 or $18,000, and typically, someone wins the pot about every three months."

So, it was a little overdue. For weeks, the blackout bingo games have caused a frenzy with standing and sitting-on-the-floor room-only in the bars. And some have had to turn players away at the door in order to meet fire code.


Hart said that's what happened to him last Friday when he tried to get into Kelly's to play a round.

Luckily, the pair both made it on Tuesday, a rare night off for Pelletier, who works as a bartender at Denny's Tavern.

Tuesday is date night, she said, and they like to start it off with bingo. They always share their winnings, and this time will be no different.

"We've been dating for nine years. That's what nine years of dating gets you," Hart said with a laugh. "I already got a couple of 'you should put a ring on it' texts."

"Everybody says we should take a vacation, a trip somewhere," Pelletier said.

"Or maybe look for a house," Hart added.

"Right, buy a house. That will be a little down payment," she said.

'Sweet' victory


Pelletier's longtime friends Brigette Becker and Raevonne Kemmer said the prize couldn't go to a more deserving person.

"She works really hard, and she's so good to people," Kemmer said. "She truly is a sweet, kind and giving person, the perfect person to win this money."

The women said the night actually began as sort of a belated "girls night out."

It turned a little more exciting when Becker split a $1,000 bingo giveaway at Rumors, and she offered to treat them to dinner. Then, they heard someone had won the jackpot at Kelly's. They weren't there yet but knew Pelletier was and quickly called to ask if it was true.

"I just won the $55,000," she told them.

After mumbled disbelief and more questions, Kemmer decided: "You're buying dinner tonight."

Good cause

After raising about $56,000 for Development Homes Inc., the progressive bingo game will return to a more modest prize of about $1,600 on Wednesday.


And that has bar and gaming employees breathing a little sigh of relief.

"It's a lot of extra work not just for the gaming people but the bar staff, too," Becker said. "They have to have all these extra people on all at the same time."

Kelly's Bar owner Casey Noreen agreed it's more work but said it also has been great for business.

"It was phenomenal tonight. All the bingo players stood up and cheered," he said. "I think the other customers were ready for it to go, too. It was nice to see regular customers win."

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