The night was in full swing by 10:30 p.m. and the tables were loaded with gamblers. Dancing, flashing lights, music from DJ Eric Freedman and, of course, gambling combined to turn the Hub into a makeshift Vegas for Gamma Phi Beta’s Casino Night.
The event, which the sorority hosts annually, was held Thursday night from 9 p.m. to midnight in order to raise money for the Isla Vista Youth Project, an after-school tutoring and mentoring program for I.V. Elementary School students. The event raised approximately $1,500 from the 300 gamblers who each paid a $5 cover charge to attend the event. Each participant was given $200 in “funny money” that could be played at poker, blackjack, craps or roulette tables.
“We made announcements at all the sororities, but we mainly tried to attract guys.” said Lesley Cheng, Gamma Phi Beta fundraising chair. “This is the first year we’ve had poker, and everyone loves Texas Hold ’em.”
With their $200 allowance, gamblers were also able to buy raffle tickets. Prizes were raffled off every 20 minutes and included gift certificates donated by local businesses such as Ruby’s Diner and the Underground Salon. The raffle’s grand prize was a two-night, three-day trip to the Sam’s Town Hotel in Las Vegas.
Casino Knights, a local gambling business, donated the trip to Las Vegas, and provided the tables and professional dealers to work the tables for the sorority’s event.
Gamma Phi Beta girls acted as dealers for the blackjack and poker tables while the professional dealers from Casino Knights controlled the craps and roulette tables.
“We were trained in dealing a little bit beforehand and the professional dealers are here also to help us,” said Shannyn Crawford, a Gamma Phi Beta sophomore dramatic arts and sociology major.
Casino Night is one of two fundraising programs the sorority holds each year for their philanthropy projects. Casino Night is generally held in the winter, but was postponed this year due to the weather.
“It was originally scheduled for Feb. 25.” Cheng said. “But it was pouring on that day and we were afraid that the tables would get ruined coming in and that people wouldn’t come because they wouldn’t want to leave their houses.”
Though the tables cost the sorority $1,000 to rent from Casino Knights, they received an alternative social programming grant in April for $800 from the Office of Student Life because it was a sober, on-campus event on a Thursday night.
Freshman biopsychology major Beau Kenworthey said it was a good chance to have a lot of fun for little money.
“This is great; it’s nice to see all the girls dressed up and having a good time. It’s not every night you can go out and gamble with friends without actually losing any real money,” Kenworthey said.