With this document you can:

This box is not visible in the printed version.

How to run bingo legally

Find out more about the different kinds of gaming and check whether or not you'll need a licence.

Published: 11 June 2021

Last updated: 1 November 2021

This version was printed or saved on: 16 June 2024

Online version: https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/licensees-and-businesses/guide/how-to-run-a-game-of-bingo

Overview: The legal basis for bingo is complex. Make sure you carefully follow all the rules for the type of gaming you want to run.

This includes playing bingo:

Residential gaming

Residential gaming is one of two forms of what's known as 'private gaming' - which can only take place somewhere the public can't access.

Where it can take place

Anywhere the public does not have access to. For example, a hostel or halls of residence.

You do not need a licence for this kind of gaming.

What you must do

You must:

What you can't do

You can't:

Example

A group of four friends want to play a game of bingo at their student halls. They invite two more friends over to join them and everyone plays the game at the same physical location, using a bingo board game.

Every player pays a £1 stake and this makes up the pot of money which can be won.

Domestic gaming

Domestic gaming is one of two forms of what's known as 'private gaming' - which can only take place somewhere the public can't access.

Where it can take place

In a private dwelling, such as a house. This can also include other types of accommodation used as, or as part of, a home. For example, motorhomes, houseboats and garden sheds.

Under 18s can take part.

You do not need a licence for this kind of gaming.

What you must do

You must:

What you can’t do

You can’t:

Example

Danielle invites her friends over to her house for her baby shower. One of the activities is a game of bingo. Everyone will physically play the bingo game at Danielle’s house and everyone has the same chance of winning.

Every player pays a £1 stake and this makes up the pot of money which can be won.

Online bingo

You need a licence to run any kind of online or 'remote' bingo. This includes any type of game where players would be taking part virtually. For example, you need a licence to run a bingo game played using social media or on a video call, using platforms such as Zoom.

Warning If you run an online bingo game without a licence you are breaking the law.

Online bingo includes bingo offered using any form of 'remote' communications

This includes:

Why you need a licence

The legal basis for bingo means that even if you have good intentions (such as playing for charity) you could face a fine or criminal prosecution.

You can read more in Section 6 of the Gambling Act 2005 (opens in new tab).

What you must do

If you want to run online bingo you’ll need to apply for a remote bingo operating licence with us. You’ll also need to comply with the relevant legal requirements and our regulatory codes.

If you don’t want to apply for a licence, we’d strongly recommend choosing another activity. You can find fundraising ideas on the NHS Charities Together website (opens in new tab).

Bingo using a club gaming permit

Where it can take place

In the following places:

You do not need a licence for this kind of gaming. However, you'll need to apply for a club gaming permit with your local authority.

What you must do

You must make sure:

What you can’t do

You can’t:

Example

A local branch of a political club want to run a bingo night. Usually, the club meet to discuss environmental issues. Everyone taking part in the bingo night will be a member of the club, or a registered guest.

There will be no under 18s taking part, and no children or young people will be allowed in the function room where the bingo will take place. The total stakes and prizes will be less than £2,000. The club applies for a club gaming permit and their request for the permit is granted.

Gaming machines

A club gaming permit also allows you to provide a maximum of 3 gaming machines from categories B3A (with agreement), B4, C or D.

You can read more about club gaming permits.

Exempt gaming in clubs and miners' welfare institutes

Where it can take place

You can run games like bingo and poker in the following places:

You do not need a licence for this kind of gaming.

What you must do

You must make sure:

If you’re a commercial club with a club machine permit the participation fee increases to £3 per person per day.

What you can’t do

You can’t:

Exempt gaming in pubs

Where it can take place

Generally, in any alcohol-licensed premises, such as pubs and bars.

You do not need a licence for this kind of gaming.

What you must do

You must make sure:

What you can’t do

You can’t:

Example

The owner of a nightclub wants to run a bingo night. The club’s premises already has an alcohol licence and only adults are allowed in the club. The total stakes and prizes for the bingo will be less than £2,000. All stakes will be returned as prizes. The owner of the club will give free entry to the club for the bingo night and there won’t be any other charges for people to take part.

The maximum stake is charged at £5 per person per game. All the money raised from the bingo night will be given back as prizes. Guests will still be able to buy drinks and pay for them as usual.

If you're holding bingo as part of a wider event

You can charge admission costs for the overall entertainment. However, you can't charge participation fees, or any kind of entry fees for the bingo.

Scenario

A pub landlady wants to hold an entertainment evening. She plans to offer entertainment a live band, quiz and a game of bingo. The landlady can charge an entry fee – for instance £10 – for the event as a whole and make a profit from the fee. However, people who will be playing bingo must be able to enter the pub without paying the entry fee. Some venues have a separate area where people can join in with bingo for free, but they can’t access the other entertainment, in order to do this.

For example, the landlady can use a function room for the bingo which people will access for free (or, to pay a maximum of £5 stake per person, per game). However, guests won’t be able to access the main pub to watch the band or take part in the quiz without paying the £10 entry fee.

Bingo at a premises: prize gaming

The rules about playing bingo as prize gaming depend on the type of premises it is played in.

What you must do

You must make sure you only offer the type of gaming you're permitted to, as follows:

Time restrictions

For the following, the game of bingo must take place over one day only:

These restrictions do not apply to licensed bingo premises.

In Adult Gaming Centres, licensed and unlicensed family entertainment centres and travelling fairs, you must also make sure that:

Additional rules

You must also follow additional rules - including keeping to the maximum prize limits. These depend on the type of premises, as follows.

What you can't do

You can't:

Additional rules

You must also adhere to the following rules, including prize limits and maximum participation fees, which vary depending on the type of premises.

Licensed bingo premises

Bingo halls and clubs that hold a bingo premises licence.

The rules

The maximum participation fee you can charge people is £1 per chance to win 1 or more prizes in a game.

The maximum aggregate participation fees per game are £500.

The maximum single prize limit is £70 cash or in prize value (if under 18s are allowed on the premises). Or, the maximum prize limit is £100 (if under 18s are not allowed on the premises).

The maximum aggregate prize fund (cash or in prize value) per game is £500.

Under 18s cannot take part in prize gaming at a bingo hall.

Adult Gaming Centre (AGC)

High-street outlets with gaming machines only available to over 18s.

For example, AGCs offer games which include slots, casino-style games and fruit machines. AGCs must have a Gambling Commission licence.

The rules

The maximum participation fee is £1 per chance to win 1 or more prizes in a game.

The maximum aggregate participation fees per game are £500.

The maximum single prize limit is £70 cash or in prize value.

The maximum aggregate prize fund (cash or in prize value) per game is £500.

Under 18s cannot take part in this kind of gaming at an AGC.

Family Entertainment Centre (FEC)

Larger arcades which cater for a range of ages.

They're allowed to provide an unlimited number of certain types of gaming machine in a premise which is open to all ages. FECs must have a Gambling Commission licence.

The rules

The maximum participation fee is £1 per chance to win 1 or more prizes in a game.

The maximum aggregate participation fees per game are £500.

The maximum single prize limit is £70 cash or in prize value.

The maximum aggregate prize fund (cash or in prize value) per game is £500.

Unlicensed Family Entertainment Centre (UFEC)

Family-friendly amusement arcades and small arcades in holiday parks and resorts.

Unlicensed FECs must have a permit from the local licensing authority.

The rules

The maximum participation fee is £1 per chance to win 1 or more prizes in a game.

The maximum aggregate participation fees per game are £500.

The maximum single prize limit is £70 cash or in prize value.

The maximum aggregate prize fund (cash or in prize value) per game is £500.

Travelling fairs

Made up of amusements, rides and games.

The rules

At a travelling fair, the bingo must be an ancillary (additional) amusement at the fair. For example, a travelling fair could offer bingo as well as their main attractions of fairground rides.

The maximum participation fee is £1 per chance to win 1 or more prizes in a game.

The maximum aggregate participation fees per game are £500.

The maximum single prize limit is £70 cash or in prize value.

The maximum aggregate prize fund (cash or in prize value) per game is £500.

Under 18s can take part in this kind of gaming at a travelling fair.

Some category D gaming machines are designed or adapted to play bingo as a prize game.

Bingo for fundraising

You can raise money for charity by running a bingo night or bingo fundraiser, however you must follow the relevant rules.

Where it can take place

Anywhere which does not have a gambling premises licence. For example, this can include things like school halls, places of worship and community spaces.

However, the gaming must take place at a non-commercial event at one of these venues.

The event is non-commercial if all the proceeds from the event are used for fundraising and the reasonable costs of organising the event.

This includes money from:

Under 18s can take part in the following kinds of 'non-commercial gaming'.

There are specific rules for this kind of gaming if you want to hold it at a racetrack.

You do not need a licence for this kind of gaming. However, you must make sure you follow all of these rules.

What you must do

You must:

Warning You cannot play the bingo virtually, or online in any way. You'll need a licence to run online bingo, otherwise you are breaking the law.

What you can't do

You can't:

Profits

You can only use the profits raised from bingo to give to the good cause you’ve advertised.

You can only deduct (take away) money from the total raised to pay for reasonable costs. For example, costs for prizes, printing bingo cards or providing refreshments.

You cannot make money for yourself or for your business from the event.

What’s classed as profits

Money raised from the bingo by stakes, entry or participation fees, minus costs from giving prizes or other reasonable costs.

Third parties

If a third party is selling good or services at the bingo night, for example refreshments, this won’t count as money raised for charity and can be kept by the third party. For example, if a local baker has a stand at the bingo night selling homemade cakes, they can keep any money raised from sales on the night.

There are two ways to run bingo for fundraising

1. Non-commercial equal chance gaming

You can charge players a maximum amount of £8 per person for all the games at the event per day. This includes entrance or participation fees, stakes and any other payments linked to the gaming.

Make sure that the amount or value paid out in prizes is below £600 in total across all players, unless the event is the final in a series in which all of the players have previously taken part. In this case, a higher prize fund of up to £900 is allowed. 

Example

A wheelchair basketball club want to run a bingo night to raise money to buy one of their members a custom-built racing wheelchair. The organisers will let everyone taking part know the good cause the event is raising money for in advance.

Players are charged no more than £8 in total to take part.

All the players will physically play the game of bingo together, at the local church hall which they have hired for the evening. After the event, the organisers will deduct a small amount of money to pay for the costs of buying the bingo cards and pens. The rest of the money raised will all go to the good cause.

2. Non-commercial prize gaming

You must tell everyone who is playing what good cause you’re raising money for in advance. For example, tell players you’re raising money for Cancer Research UK before the bingo night.

There are no limits on stakes, prizes, participation fees or any other charges for this type of gaming.

However, you must not base the value of the prizes on the number of people playing, or the amount raised by the game.

Example

The PTA of a primary school want to hold a bingo night for parents, to raise money to buy kit for their athletics team. The organisers will let everyone taking part know the charity the event is raising money for in advance.

They'll also advertise all the prizes in advance. As there are no limits on the value of the prizes, local businesses have donated prizes which include a luxury hamper and a spa day.

All the parents will physically play the game of bingo together, in the school’s hall. After the event, the organisers deduct a small amount of money to pay for the costs of buying the bingo cards and pens. The rest of the money raised will all go to the good cause.