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Annex A: Banker’s games and equal chance gaming - January 2014


Under section 7(2) of the Gambling Act (opens in a new tab), bingo must always be ‘equal chance gaming’ in order to distinguish it from casino gaming (‘In this Act, ‘casino game’ means a game of chance which is not equal chance gaming’).


Section 8(1) (opens in a new tab) says that gaming is ‘equal chance gaming’ if:

  • it does not involve playing or staking against a bank and
  • the chances are equally favourable to all participants.


It is important to note that these are two separate, cumulative, requirements. If a game either involves a bank or is one in which the chances as between all those playing are unequal then it is not ‘equal chance gaming’ and cannot be offered as bingo.


This note seeks to address the meaning in this context of playing or staking against a bank.


A good starting point is the definition given in ‘The Law of Gambling’ edited by Smith and Monkcom which says that in essence a game involves a bank where one player plays against all the others, winning from them the stakes2 that they lose and paying out to them the stakes that they win.


The most obvious types of banker’s game are those (such as roulette or blackjack) which contain an inbuilt advantage to whoever is the banker (a house or banker’s edge). The players’ payments are made up entirely of stakes: the operator does not need to decide what deductions to make from stakes and never makes any such deductions.


The position is however complicated by the fact that, even if the bank does not have an edge, the game remains a banker’s game (and therefore cannot be played as bingo) if the operator acts as the bank in the sense at paragraph 2.


As a consequence, in deciding whether or not something offered as bingo is truly equal chance gaming, regard needs to be had to the following:
a) are stakes involved at all, or merely participation fees? For instance, if the person makes a payment to participate for a prize put up by the operator, that is not a stake and the game is not a banker’s game
b) if there are stakes, are there any circumstances in which any part of those stakes may be retained by the operator, or are they all paid out in prizes, either in that game or rolled over to later ones? If the latter, there is no bank against which the person is betting; instead the operator merely holds the prize fund on behalf of the players.


A game which has both a participation fee and stakes which are fully returned to the winning player(s) also remains ‘equal chance’ gaming.


Thus, as long as bingo operators either return all stakes in prizes or decide themselves how much to put up as prizes and separately decide how much to charge to ensure that the payouts are likely to be covered (such that they do not make a commercial loss) the format will not be a banker’s game and will (provided chances are equally favourable to all players3 ) meet the definition of ‘equal chance gaming’.

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