Bingo Laws: What You Need to Know Before You Play


bingo machinesBingo is a beloved game around the United States, and it is generally considered to be a wholesome and kid-friendly form of entertainment. However, in some ways, there is a thin line between bingo and gambling, a distinction that isn’t lost on many state legal codes. As a result, here’s what you need to know about bingo laws around the country.

Minors No Longer Allowed to Play Bingo in New York
Minors in New York: don’t get ready to turn on any bingo machines anytime soon. Anyone under 18 years old is now banned from playing bingo in New York State. It used to be minors had to be accompanied by an adult to play bingo games, but now they are not allowed to play at all. According to WHEC TV, bingo operators are concerned with the new law for obvious reasons. One operator had this to say about the new law:

“Grandparents that are regular customers, especially during the summer months, they do bring grandkids, younger teenagers in and they do play. With this new law coming into effect, that’s going to severely impact our clientele.”

Bingo Laws in the United States
While bingo may seem like harmless, family entertainment, it is still considered gambling under certain circumstances, and gambling is not legal in every state. Bingo halls are subject to regulations according to the state they are in. Gambling is illegal in 11 U.S. states: Illinois, Louisiana, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, Nevada, Oregon, New York, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Washington.

There are certain states which consider bingo to be legal as long as it’s for a fundraising event. These events can only be hosted by nonprofit organizations such as churches, and they have to abide by other specific regulations. Bingo is often used as an activity at fundraising events, churches, and retirement and nursing homes. With over 8% of the world’s population participating in this activity each year, bingo is considered the world’s most popular game.

Rules and Etiquette
If you are looking to participate in a legal bingo game, here are a few final common rules and etiquette tips you should know:

  • Some bingo halls have specific rules about food and drink, with most prohibiting outside refreshments.
  • Reserving specific bingo cards is not allowed.
  • Security may stop people from entering or leaving the hall in special games.
  • A player must call “bingo” before the next number is called, otherwise it does not count.
  • Remain quiet once the bingo machines are in use. Bingo is a very quiet, focused activity and you will be asked to leave if you are becoming a distraction. This includes any children you bring with you as well — make sure you have activities to keep your children busy while you play. Additionally, check ahead of time if the bingo hall allows spectators, as some halls require every person at the table to be a player.
  • Be respectful of “lucky seats.” Some regular players sit in the same seat every time they play, a.k.a. their “lucky seat.” Safe yourself the headache and move if you’re asked to.
  • Be respectful of the callers. The people operating the bingo machines are not responsible for your losing streak, so don’t take your frustration out on them.

While bingo may sometimes be treated like gambling according to your state’s laws, most people understand that there are important differences between bingo and blackjack. While blackjack is undeniably a form of gambling, bingo is enjoyed the world over to raise money for worthy causes.

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