Bingo is technically a gambling activity. Plenty of players enjoy playing this game in large groups, and most of them might not feel as if they are gambling. When you see the game being played in a town hall for example, is gambling the first thing that enters your mind? With this being said, you may need a license to host a bingo event.
Some people might laugh at your concerns, saying that a game of bingo is simply a nice gathering between friends and there is nothing to worry about. Whatever side you are on, you will get the answer to your questions below. If you are wondering whether hosting a bingo night is legal or not, keep reading and find out all details.
When Does a Bingo Game Need a License?
Bingo can be played for cash or prizes, and there are differences between the two:
- A cash game means the prize goes up and down depending on the number of tickets sold.
- A prize game has a fixed prize, whether a holiday, experience or some gift of any nature.
Usually, only commercial bingo halls offer cash prizes as they need a license from the UK Gambling Commission. On the contrary, bingo games for prizes can be held in various venues, so the situation is a bit different. In this scenario, all that is needed is a permit from a local council. The interesting thing is that people under 18 years old can play games for prizes.
When Can You Host a Bingo Night Without a License?
You will be happy to know that it is easier to host a bingo night than you might think. There are certain rules you need to follow, but all bingo gatherings that do not require a license are grouped into two categories which are explained below.
Non-Commercial Equal Chance Gaming
If you are part of a charity incentive to raise money for good causes, you don’t need a license to host bingo nights. Of course, as the name suggests, the night has to be non-commercial, so no one is allowed to make any personal profit from the bingo night. If you are looking for a profit, then you need a license, it is that simple.
The phrase “Equal Chance”, means that all participants need to have the same chance to win, and the event can’t be set up in any way where one person’s chances of winning are greater. However, you are still allowed to charge a participation fee and give out prizes for winners, but you need to adhere to the following rules:
- All punters need to be aware of the cause and where the money will be donated. In some cases, a proof will need to be provided that the money has been sent to the advertised cause.
- The maximum you can charge a player to participate is £8
- The total value of prizes in all games cannot be over £600, except where the event is the “Final” and participants have already taken part in another previous event. Here, a £900 prize is allowed
- Under-18s are allowed to take part in bingo nights like this
Private gaming is the other option where you don’t need a license. It has to take place in a venue that the general public cannot access. Examples here would include:
- Residential home
- Halls of residence
- Dining rooms
Once again, the game cannot be held for profit, and here, no participation fee can be charged. We know it is a bit confusing, but you can win cash as a participation fee is not the same as a player’s gaming stake. The main takeaway from private gaming is that all money collected must be returned in prizes or cash.
Here, under 18s can legally play as well. As long as you follow the general rules above, you have nothing to worry about, and you can host a bingo night freely.
Bingo is gambling, and whether you need a license or not to host such nights is a good one. You don’t want to get into trouble through ignorance of the law. However, as seen above, hosting a bingo night without a license is very simple, as you just need to follow a few general guidelines and have nothing to worry about. If you wish for an even more detailed explanation than the one provided, feel free to visit the Gambling Commission’s site.
Last updated: Jan 24, 2023