Know the rules on bingo variants

By Poppleston Allen

- Last updated on GMT

Fun times: Bingo is back with a bang but make sure you don't fall foul of the Gambling Act 2005
Fun times: Bingo is back with a bang but make sure you don't fall foul of the Gambling Act 2005
Bingo is having a bit of a renaissance at the moment with new and innovative approaches to the game that appeal to a wider audience.

Games where the numbers are replaced with music clips or Harry Potter-themed bingo nights with comedy bingo callers are some great examples of venues creating an experience around the game.

With this in mind, especially as the festive season looms, we find that we receive numerous queries from operators asking if they can have bingo at their pub as they want to get in on the action.

Bingo is permitted under the Gambling Act 2005 as equal chance exempt gaming and this exemption applies to premises that hold an alcohol on-licence. It is important to ensure compliance with the rules and regulations as local authorities and the Gambling Commission take a proactive approach to enforcement and preventing illegal gambling. There are strict limits and conditions that must be adhered to such as:

  • There cannot be a separate charge for the bingo player to participate and all stakes must be returned as prizes without any deductions
  • You are not permitted to have linked games across pubs
  • Under-18s are not permitted to play

It is also important to understand the financial limits. A player cannot spend more than £5 per game on bingo cards. So, for example, if each card costs £1 per game the player is not permitted to purchase more than five cards.

In order to stay within the equal chance exempt gaming provision, you must also ensure that the stakes and prizes do not exceed £2,000 in any seven-day period. If the £2,000 limit is exceeded then you must notify the Gambling Commission. Should you then exceed the £2,000 limit again in any seven-day period, an offence is committed and your premises licence will be at risk.

Also don’t overlook compliance with the code of practice published by the Gambling Commission that applies to pubs providing bingo. The designated premises supervisor is responsible for ensuring the requirements under the code are met such as:

  • The bingo must be ancillary to the main purpose of the premises, in other words provided as an additional entertainment activity only
  • The game must be supervised by staff members
  • Procedures need to be in place to ensure age verification to prevent underage gambling
  • Stakes need to be paid prior to the commencement of the bingo game and no credit can be offered

The DPS has to ensure a ‘pleasant atmosphere’ and deny participation to customers who cheat or collude with other players or employees, threaten other players or employees or damage equipment.

Now, eyes down for a full house!

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