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The fundamental principles of bingo

Bingo is essentially a lottery played as a game.

The description in the 1978 Royal Commission report is a good place to start when understanding the characteristics of bingo:

‘Bingo is a lottery played as a game. Each player receives for his stake a set of numbers which he has not chosen. These are marked off against numbers selected at random and announced by a caller, and the winner is the person who can first substantiate a claim to have marked off all those, or a particular section of those, in the set he has been given.’

The Act distinguishes bingo from casino gaming. It provides information in section 65 (opens in a new tab) for separate casino and bingo operating licences and in section 68(3) (opens in a new tab), excludes bingo from the ‘other games of chance’ that a casino operating licence authorises its holder to provide.

We consider three fundamental principles of bingo

  • bingo must be played as an equal chance game
  • bingo must involve a degree of participation
  • bingo games must have a clearly defined end point.

Bingo must be played as an equal chance game

In order for a game to be classed as ‘bingo’ it must meet the Act’s definition of ‘equal chance gaming’ (as opposed to casino gaming). This definition is set out in section 8 (opens in a new tab).

Therefore bingo must:

  • not involve playing or staking against a bank
  • be a game in which the chances are equally favourable. Each ticket or chance must have the same probablity of success.

We see no objection to bingo players being able to select some, or all, of their numbers as long as there is a mechanism to ensure that each player has a unique set of numbers and the game still remains equal chance. We also consider that fixed odds bingo games are acceptable as long as they are structured to ensure there is no banker’s interest.

We have produced a note addressing what constitutes a banker's game and how equal chance gaming differs from it. This can be found at Annex A.

Bingo must involve a degree of participation

In order to distinguish a bingo game from a straight lottery, players must be required to participate in order to be successful.

Participation could, and usually does, involve human interaction with the game. For example, players actively marking their cards and/or claiming they have won.

Alternatively, technology can be used to act as the participant's mode in playing out the game which the player has initiated. This is often the case in modern bingo formats such as online, bingo machines or hand held devices. In this way participation can be made up of a combination of activity taking place both within the mechanic of the game and by the player’s own actions.

Bingo games where the winning numbers are pre-selected are acceptable, provided that those numbers are subsequently called or displayed.

Bingo must have a clearly defined end point

A fundamental element of a game of bingo, is that it needs to end at a predetermined point or time. This end point needs to be appropriate, realistic and clearly communicated to players. The period within which a player is able to claim a prize should be factored into the timeframe of the game. Determining who has won is part of the game.

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