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Top tips: social bingo revival within licensed premises

By Richard Bradley, solicitor, Poppleston Allen

- Last updated on GMT

Measures in place: operators should ensure they are aware of the legalities around hosting bingo (image: Getty juniorbeep)
Measures in place: operators should ensure they are aware of the legalities around hosting bingo (image: Getty juniorbeep)

Related tags Licensing Poppleston allen Gambling Licensing Act 2003

Since the reopening of the hospitality industry, there has been a rise in the entertainment offered within premises as they look to innovate in their offering to attract the return of customers.

One of these revivals is that of social bingo, with many operators providing pioneering approaches to the game. Numbers are being replaced with music clips and games are provided at event nights including comedy and other entertainment. 

Whatever your particular take on bingo the important fact is that, in most circumstances, it will be classed as gaming under the Gambling Act 2005. 

It is vital operators consider the legalities before commencing events as a failure to comply with the regulatory requirements could be considered the provision of illegal gambling. While a licence review may be unlikely, operators could find themselves in breach of the crime and disorder Licensing Objective under the Licensing Act 2003.

Bingo is permitted in pubs as exempt gaming and we have provided a checklist to assist:

  • Premises must contain a bar from which alcohol is served for consumption on the premises and the sale of alcohol must not be restricted to only those customers consuming food;
  • Games can only be played at times when alcohol can be supplied in reliance on the premises licence or sold for consumption on the premises in reliance on a Scottish premises licence;
  • There can be no separate participation fee, which would include a ticketed event whereby customers are provided food, beverages and bingo cards for a single price;
  • No amount can be deducted from stakes with all money taken being returned to the player(s) as prizes;
  • The maximum stake for any game of bingo is £5 per person.  So if each bingo card in a game costs £1, a player cannot buy more than 5 cards in that game;
  • There is no limit to the value of prizes for all games (you can donate additional prizes in excess of the total stakes received);
  • Games cannot be linked with a game played on another set of premises;
  • Under 18s are not permitted to play;
  • Premises managers should ensure that the limits are not breached.
  • Gaming must not be classified as high turnover, which means that neither the stake nor the prize total can be greater than £2000 in any 7 day period. 

The Gambling Commission has a Code of Practice for Equal Chance Gaming ​in pubs available on its website and the designated premises supervisor (DPS) is responsible for ensuring the code’s requirements are met, which include:

  • Games must be supervised by staff members;
  • Age verification procedures must be implemented;
  • Stakes need to be paid prior to the commencement of the bingo game and no credit can be offered; and
  • My personal favourite – 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.

Dabbers at the ready!

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