Casino regulars tend to dismiss bingo as a game for church or school fundraisers, a lottery at best. There are others, including American lawmakers, who see bingo as a casino game.
This article will take a close look at US laws to determine if bingo casinos are for you.
⚠️ We are not lawyers so consider this article an opinion piece - not legal advice whatsoever!
What Makes Bingo a Casino Game
Land-based and online bingo rooms are a form of gambling. Bingo is a numbers game similar to the lottery or keno. Players aim to have the first ticket to contain the winning numbers during each session. While you do not control the number orientation in your ticket, you still have control over the number of tickets in play for each session. In other words, players have the choice to increase their stake by buying more tickets to increase their odds of winning a bingo session.
Do not just take our word for it. A former Salt Lake District Attorney, David Yocom, said, "Anytime you risk something of value to win something of value, it is gambling. In my view of the law, it is, in fact, gambling." Yocom's statement comes from a court case in West Valley City that was opened upon finding Annie's Dinner & Bingo Club in violation of state law when holding a bingo event.
Bingo establishments such as Annie's Dinner & Bingo Club are legal when the bingo cards are free, or participants do not have to pay when participating. However, the establishment offers participants additional cards when they order additional meals. Selling more cards to give players better odds at winning prizes has made the bingo session an illegal activity.
Looking at the game from another view, are bingo casinos as exciting as other gambling games? In terms of cash prizes, bingo payouts have the highest ones compared to other games on the gambling floor. Jackpot prizes around Las Vegas bingo halls can go from $600 to $2,000.
Bingo tournaments tend to have several single sessions with payouts of more than $1,000. These tournaments also have massive prizes that have more than $10,000 for players who achieve significant accomplishments such as coveralls between 45 and 52.
Why Bingo is Not Considered Gambling
According to the law, bingo is a gambling game. So why are they prevalent among churches, schools, or any non-government organization events?
Organizations can legally hold bingo events due to the law deeming the game a legal activity within specific states such as Florida as long as the profits from the events go to charity.
Other parts of the law need to be considered to keep a bingo game legal. Going back to Florida, there is a limit to how much a bingo game can reward participants. Jackpots for sessions must not exceed $250 in cash prizes or object value. In addition, players must be 18 or older to join any bingo game.
Certain US states are slightly looser than others regarding bingo legality, such as Michigan. Organizations within this state can keep half of the revenue from bingo events as long as the rest goes to charity.
Charitable Gaming License for Bingo
Organizations looking to host bingo games for fundraisers or charity events must sign up for a charitable gaming license. Applicants for this license are required by the state to have been active for at least three years.
Charitable gaming licenses are only valid for a single event and are not renewable. However, organizations can sign up for multiple licenses when they plan to hold more than one bingo session within a year.
Regarding the law and payout, bingo casino is on the same level as other gambling games such as keno, blackjack, or racebook. Bingo can also be a legal activity for specific states as long as its profits are for charities.
This article was published on September 26, 2021, and last updated on September 25, 2021.