Casino Night shuffles the deck for United Way

On Friday, March 20, Johnson State College hosted its 38th Annual Casino Night to raise money for United Way of Lamoille County. An offical tally of the money raised for United Way was unavailable at presstime.

The theme of this year’s Casino Night was Hollywood.  Guests were encouraged to dress as if they were headed to the latest posh night club, and many did just that.  There were over 100 people on hand to show their support for this charitable event, and more than half in attendance pulled out all the stops and dressed to the nines.

Held on the third floor of Stearns Hall, the once bright and cheery cafeteria was transformed for this one night into a facsimile of a Vegas casino.  Dim lighting, dealers wearing classic green tinted visors and Pit Bosses working their section all added to the realism of the night.  And of course there was a healthy selection of gaming tables to choose from.  Blackjack, Three card poker and Texas hold ‘em were all on the scene, and for those that prefer games of chance that do not involve cards there was roulette, craps and the casino classic, the slot machine.  To add to the illusion of being in a casino there was even a free buffet offering a variety of hors d’oeuvres.  And for those patrons of legal drinking age there was a cash bar serving wine, Budweiser, and an excellent selection of locally produced beer.

General admission was $10, while students only had to pony up $7 at the door or $5 if they purchased tickets in advance.  In exchange for the entry fee, guests received $800 in play money that could be exchanged for poker chips at any of the tables.

All of the dealers working the tables were volunteers. Director First-Year Experience, Margo Warden, was one of those volunteers said, “Quite honestly I was nervous about dealing, but then I realized that everybody is so nice, it was so much fun.”

Good Guy Productions, owned by Eric Wilson, provided the gaming tables, photo booth and music for the evening.  Located approximately 45 miles south east of Plattsburgh in Bloomingdale, New York, Wilson and his company have travelled to JSC in support of this event for many years.  But traveling is nothing new for Good Guy Productions, as work has taken Wilson and his crew to Michigan, Maine, Florida as well as points in between.  “This is one of my favorite events,” said Wilson, “It’s just a nice event, people dress up and it’s really a nice group of people that are here.”  Along the same line, Warden said, “It was a lot of fun.  I love seeing students dressed up.  I thought it was a great crowd.”

The number in attendance for this year’s event was similar to previous Casino Nights held at JSC, but this time around, more people from the surrounding towns made their way to campus for a night of fun.

“Something that’s different this year, is I see local people mixed in with the students and that’s pretty good,” said Wilson, “you guys always have a really good turnout [referring to the number of guests].”

While for many students Casino Night is a familiar scene, for others it was a new experience.  For Breana Kane, a freshman at JSC, this was her first experience with a casino.  The best part Kane said, “I love hanging out with friends, it doesn’t matter what I was doing.”  Another first timer as the event was JSC student Erica Fuller, “I have been in a casino in New York before,” said Fuller, “but I’d never been to Casino Night before.”  Fuller’s game of choice, Blackjack.  “Once I figured out I just pretty much stayed there,” Fuller said.

It was not just some of the guests that were experiencing Casino Night for the first time; this was also a first for SGA President Ben Simone, but in a slightly different way.  “This is my first time setting up Casino Night,” said Simone, “but from what I’ve heard from other members of the group, is that it went incredibly well, and [was] one of the most flawless casino nights we’ve had.”  That speaks volumes to the hard work of all the volunteers that spent an estimated total of over 200 hours putting this event together.

Annie, who declined to provide her last name, a resident of Cambridge, Vt. first learned about Casino Night on  She tried to get some of her friends to come along, but when none of them would commit she decided to make the short trip to JSC anyway.  So what attracted her to Casino Night: “I love playing with fake money, and it’s for a good cause,” said Annie.

Jennifer Bellavance, is another local community member that was in attendance, and a first timer at the JSC Casino Night.  “I’ve never played [three card poker], and now I know how,” said Bellavance.  A year from now when JSC is hosting its 39th Casino Night, will Bellavance find her way to a seat at the Three card poker table, “Definitely,” said Bellavance, “it’s fun.”

At 11 p.m. the tables closed down, the gamblers began to cash in their winnings and the final event of the night, the auction, began.  The items up for auction ran the gamut from gift certificates to fishing poles, and those with enough cash in hand could walk away with a nice memento of the evening.