Casino Night a winning hand for Rotary

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – They once gamble for real at The Wort’s Silver Dollar Bar. Even after the vice was made illegal in Wyoming, the roulette wheels continued to spin and cards still got shuffled out of sheer defiance. The gaming activities eventually turned covert in the early 1950s when the pressure was on from the governor’s office to cease operation. By then, you needed to whisper the password to head bartender Steve Bartek to get dealt in.

When Casino Night was announced last year as the Rotary Club’s newest fundraiser (replacing the hugely popular Wine Fest) it seemed like the perfect fit. Boy howdy has it been!

Casino Night volunteers. (Rotary Club of JH Facebook)

Casino Night at The Wort last month raised a record $266,325 for Rotary scholarships—more than double the amount last year. This was the second year for Casino Night, since replacing Wine Fest as the Rotary lunch club’s annual fundraiser for their scholarship program. The money raised goes to the Rotary Club of Jackson Hole Foundation, which manages the scholarship fund.

“The Foundation is so grateful to all the sponsors but especially to Jim Waldrop and the Wort Hotel for putting so many hours into making this not just a hugely successful event for raising funds for scholarship but it was also an incredibly fun evening,” said Deidre Ashley, Foundation chair.

Club president Hank Phibbs added, “There was risk involved in leaving behind a long-standing event like Wine Fest. We thank the Wort and its wonderful owners and staff, the Casino Night committee and volunteers, and our generous sponsors for making Casino Night even more successful.”

Matching donations were offered by two major sponsors. Foster Friess has put up $30,000 in matching donations for the last three years. This year, the Hughes Foundation offered to match the total raised, including the Friess match.

“These generous gifts are such a vote of confidence in our young people and their futures. Scholarships for graduating seniors has been a prime focus of our club and it is amazing to be able to do even more this year,” Rotarian Jeff Ward said. Ward heads up the scholarship committee that makes the awards to graduating high school seniors from local schools.

Rotarian and Teton County School Superintendent Gillian Chapman released a statement: “On behalf of TCSD#1 board, staff, and students, ‘thank you’ to everyone who helped to make the Rotary Scholarship Casino Night a huge success. Our students are fortunate to have a community that values education and is willing to partner and support students to reach their future goals. This event, through the generous support of local businesses, individual donors and the volunteers the money raised for scholarships will truly make it possible for many of our students to attend school with one less burden and a little more hope.”

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