Planning a festive bingo night? Tips to stay within the law

We are rapidly approaching that time of year when clubs, pubs and even businesses will be diving in to some fun activities for the festive season. One of the most popular ideas is to hold a bingo night. Once the domain of blue-rinsed pensioners, the revival that bingo has enjoyed over recent years is one of the more unexpected consequences of the broader online gaming phenomenon that has taken the UK and the rest of Europe by storm.

TV campaigns have striven to bring bingo to a new, younger audience, and you need only look at the choice of operators on a comparison site like to see how successful they have been. Of course, playing online is a great way for people to get to know the game, but what if you want to bring some Christmas cheer by arranging a bingo night at your local pub or even in the office conference room in the run up to the festive season?

Licensing rules

Bingo is a type of gambling and is therefore regulated under the Gambling Act of 2005. The Act defines it as a game of equal chance, ie every participant has the same probability of winning. Commercial bingo halls are licensed by the Gambling Commission and the local authority. However, it is permitted to arrange bingo games in non-licensed premises, provided certain conditions are met.

Private gaming

Non-licensed bingo is allowed on private premises to which the public do not have access, as long as more than half the participants reside at the venue. A good example here is the bingo games that are so popular in retirement homes, but it could also apply to student halls of residence. No charges may be levied for private gaming – in other words, all stakes must be redistributed in the form of prizes. It is worth keeping in mind that this even applies to charitable causes. If you want to raise money for charity, you will need to explore another avenue.

Using an alcohol licence

Premises that have a licence for on-sale of alcohol, for example pubs and social clubs, can host bingo events, provided these remain within certain limits. Again, participation fees are not allowed, and the maximum stake is £5.00 per person per game. Linked games across different premises are prohibited, and non-licensed bingo must not exceed £2,000 in turnover in any seven-day period. This is to ensure the gaming is always ancillary to the main function of the business. Finally, the bingo must be open to over-18s only, and the licensee is responsible for ensuring age verification.

Join the bingo revolution

Bingo’s popularity just keeps on growing. The fact that there are so many variations on the theme, for example replacing the numbers with song snippets or using comedy bingo callers, only serves to add to the appeal. Just keep in mind that the Gambling Commission is as aware as everyone else of the renaissance that bingo is undergoing. It is proactive in monitoring compliance, so ensure your festive bingo night plays by the right rules.

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