Is Bingo a Game or Gambling?


What is Bingo? Bingo is a game of chance played using an oblong card with numbered columns and rows. The first person to arrange the numbers in a grid from one to fifteen, positioning each number according to designated patterns, wins. In many countries, it's regulated as a lottery. In the UK, this means that playing Bingo does not contravene any criminal law.

Is Bingo just for fun or does it constitute gambling?

Bingo is a game for one or more players, where each player tries to assemble five numbers in a line. Winning bingo cards are traditionally kept on the cardstock, but can also be recorded online.

It is typically played at house parties, community centers, nursing homes, pubs, and churches. However, some have argued that it could constitute gambling because of the element of chance involved.

The question of whether or not internet bingo is considered gambling has been debated for many years. Some people think of it as only a game or an enjoyable pastime, while others compare it to roulette or blackjack.

Answering the question is a little more complicated because it includes an 'if'. By definition, any game of chance gambled for real money is gambling, so if you're playing bingo with real money in the hopes of winning real money, you're gambling.

On the other hand, if it's just for pleasure with no money involved – such as at home on a rainy afternoon - then there's plainly no gambling going on, and it'd be difficult to argue otherwise.

Taking these two instances into consideration, bingo may be considered both gambling and non-gambling depending on the conditions. The main distinction is whether you're playing for real money or not.

What if only one side of the game involves money?

What if you pay to participate in a charity event where the 'prizes' aren't monetary but are provided by local businesses? It might be argued either way in the situation:

The Gambling Argument - You're exchanging money for the chance to win valuable prizes. As a consequence, while your gains aren't monetary in nature, they were earned by risking your own money and should be considered gambling.

The Argument That You Aren't Gambling - You're participating in a fundraiser, and while the rewards are wonderful, they aren't the major reason you bought your tickets.

The goal here isn't to emerge out of the game better off than you were before you started, but to raise money for a worthy cause.

Imagine the same charity event, but this time you are charged an entry price that includes complimentary bingo tickets. Your bingo tickets are technically free, so you're not putting anything on the line to win a prize. It might be argued that gambling isn't involved in this case.

What do the regulators say?

Many on the 'yes it is gambling' side of things like to point out, and properly so, that all online bingo sites require a UK Gambling Commission license to operate. This demonstrates that the governing body, and hence the government, considers playing online bingo for real money to be gambling.

It's difficult to dispute that, thus any type of online bingo played for real money is likely to be considered gambling.

Bingo is classified as an equal-opportunity game by the UKGC, which divides it into two categories:

Cash Bingo - The stakes paid make up the cash prizes that are won.

Prize Bingo - Various forms of prizes are won, not directly related to the stakes paid.

Even yet, there are specific scenarios, such as in social clubs, where cash bingo can be played without a license as long as the stakes are under a particular level.

Furthermore, a prize bingo venue, such as a seaside arcade, is subject to different licensing regulations than a casino that provides both cash and prize bingo. It's as clear as mud, as you can see!

To summarise, if you're playing for real money, bingo is indeed gambling. If you're not, then the answer is no. If it's somewhere in the middle or a combination of the two, it's up to you to determine.


In conclusion, Bingo is considered gambling. Bingo has many positive aspects, including helping older adults stay active and social while also providing some extra income for low-income families.

Bingo is a long-standing type of gaming that has evolved significantly in recent years. It's also the only type of gaming recognised under the Gambling Act of 2005 (the Act) (opens in a new tab) that lacks a formal definition. Bingo, according to the Act's definition, refers to "any form of the game, regardless of what name it is called under."