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Feature article - Social Bingo

Social or entertainment bingo – a growing phenomenon

Over the last 2 years there has been a growth in a new format for playing bingo. It is aimed at a younger demographic – students and young professionals. It combines bingo games with various other forms of entertainment – themed nights, quizzes and party games. It is normally played in pubs and clubs on an intermittent basis – it is not played every day of the week. The word ‘bingo’ is used somewhere in the title of the event and booking is invariably done online in the first instance. 

We have been working closely with a number of LAs in the towns and cities where these have been taking place due to serious concerns about non-compliance with both the statutory regulations as well as wider social responsibility issues. Where appropriate we have also taken action against the operator of the event. In general terms the important dividing line is those who offer the events without a Commission bingo operating licence and those who hold the licence.

Exempt gaming in an alcohol licenced premises without an operating licence

The requirements are as follows:

  1. Bingo can only be offered within an alcohol-licensed premises.
  2. No profit can be made from the bingo itself. This means they cannot charge a fee for participating in bingo - nor can they take a cut from either the money paid to play bingo (stakes), or from the prize amounts awarded.
  3. It must be possible for bingo players to gain entry to the premises without paying an admission fee. This is because admission fees to premises where bingo takes place are treated as participation fees i.e. profit.
  4. All stakes for bingo games must be returned as prizes. So, if they raise £500 in total from all bingo players, they must return the whole £500 in prizes.
  5. The maximum stake they can charge is £5 per person per game.
  6. The chances of winning a prize must be equally favourable to all players. 
  7. The operator can’t link up the bingo games with other bingo games taking place on a different set of premises.
  8. No under 18s can be allowed to play. They must have controls are in place to prevent underage gambling.
  9. The bingo must comply with the Code of Practice for equal chance gaming in club and premises with an alcohol licence - this includes compliance with the maximum stakes of £5 per person per game.
  10. They must notify the Commission - and may need to apply for an operating licence - if the bingo involves more than £2,000 in stakes, or they award more than £2,000 in prizes, in any seven-day period.

Sections 18.12 – 18.15 of the Guidance to Licensing Authorities (GLA), s281 of the Gambling Act 2005 and the Exempt Gaming in Alcohol Licensed Premises Regulations 2007 which set the controls for this form of gaming to ensure it remains a low stakes and prizes activity

We encourage LAs to monitor pubs, clubs and similar venues for the occurrence of these events and to contact us if you are unsure particularly in relation to stakes and prizes exceeding the £2,000 weekly limit or where there is a possible fee to play, should contact their compliance manager in the first instance.

Exempt gaming in an alcohol licensed premises with an operating licence

The requirements are as follows:

  1. Details of those who hold an operating licence can be found on our website.
  2. There are only two significant differences to the above restrictions:
  • They can exceed the £2,000 7 day period limit on stakes and prizes. However all the other restrictions apply including not making a profit from the bingo, not charging a par fee and no under 18s.
  • They are also able to offer bingo using a Temporary Use Notice (TUN).

Entertainment bingo &TUNs (with a Commission operating licence only)

  1. Under a TUN it is required that the gaming is ‘intended to produce a single overall winner’ although this does not restrict the gaming to only one winner through the course of the tournament.
  2. The qualifying rounds may produce winners whose prize is to progress to the next round. However, the event must be structured as a tournament.
  3. Cash games during the event are not permitted, and gaming machines cannot be made available in reliance on a TUN.
  4. The event must be appropriately staffed to ensure compliance with all social responsibility and other requirements.
  5. The intended user of the TUN must submit details on a form prescribed by the Secretary of State
  6. The form must be received by the responsible authorities not less than 3 months and one day before the event is due to take place.
  7. Further information is available in Part 14 of the GLA, s214-234 of the Act and the Temporary Use Notice Regulations 2007.

Entertainment  bingo operators and premises licence applications  

We have recently made representations on two bingo premises applications from the ‘entertainment bingo’ sub sector. Whilst in both cases we had a variety of concerns in relation to the premises applications our main concerns are:

  1. Whether it would be clear to potential customers that they were entering a bingo premises.
  2. Whether the main purpose of the premises is to offer bingo or what should be ancillary activities such as alcohol or food.
  3. Whether the applicant states that they do not wish to take up the associated machine entitlement or not is immaterial – the entitlement cannot be removed.

Whilst we always consider such matters on a case by case basis the Commission’s overall position has been set out the social responsibility code 9.1.2.

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