Is Bingo legal in the USA?

Variants of bingo have been played all over the world for hundreds of years. Historians agree that the game most...

Is Bingo legal in the USA?

Variants of bingo have been played all over the world for hundreds of years. Historians agree that the game most likely originated in Italy and have traced it back to a game which was called Lo Giuoco del Lotto D’Italia played as early as 1530 as was known as a weekly lottery game. From there it made its way to France where it became known as Le Lotto. It was a big hit amongst the wealthy upper classes where it was played in parlours alongside early versions of blackjack and poker. In Germany however, bingo was a game for children and was used as an educational tool.

Around the same time, bingo made its way to England, where it became so popular it is often mistakenly thought to have originated there. Bingo halls were built all over the country and became popular places for teenagers and young adults to hang out in the 1950s and 1960s. The game itself hasn’t changed at all since then. 90 numbered balls are spun in a large barrel and the caller picks one at a time, shouting out the number to the players in the hall. Players have their own unique bingo cards which show 15 numbers which they cross off as they are announced. The first person to cover all their numbers calls out ‘bingo’ and is declared the winner. It’s possible for players to buy multiple cards for each game, but they have to be quick at finding the numbers because the callers work quickly.

Bingo is also played in the USA. It made its way there in the late 1920s and used to appear at county fairs. The game is slightly different to its UK counterpart in that it only uses 75 balls. This makes the game faster and increases everyone’s chances of hitting the winning combination. But while bingo was legalized as a gambling game in the UK in the 1960s, the rules aren’t quite as clear cut in the USA. While things vary from state to state, gambling is generally illegal outside of permitted exceptions. One of those exceptions is bingo, with federal law classing it as social gambling and making it legal in 2011. This means people are able to host bingo events for fundraisers or social mixers, as long as the organizers don’t keep any of the profits.

USA Gambling Laws

Recently, many US states have opted to pass their own laws explicitly legalizing aspects of gambling such as sports betting and casino games. One of the hotly contested topics up for debate amongst many of the states is the problem with online gambling. Currently, all forms of online gambling in the US fall into a legal grey area. Unless a state has passed a specific law to legalize it, like New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania have, then online sites cannot operate out of American soil.

With states free to pass their own laws on online gambling, a strange situation has arisen within some areas. Although bingo is legal to play in person, there are ten states where it is illegal to play online. These are Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Nevada, Michigan, New York, Oregon, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Washington. Some of those names might surprise you: Nevada is home to Las Vegas, the gambling capital of America, and New York is always seen as being forward-thinking and cosmopolitan. However, changes are afoot, with both Michigan and New York currently debating bills that would see changes to their stances on online gaming. 

But because the USA’s gambling laws are quite old, there is no explicit coverage of online gambling. This means that, while the other 40 states haven’t directly made it illegal, they also haven’t amended their laws to make online gambling legal either. The legal status of gambling is going through a thorough review in almost every state and citizens are hopeful that the next decade will bring much-needed clarity to the issue. 

Gambling laws differ in each state, with the Supreme Court ruling in 2018 it was up to individual states to determine their gambling laws offline and online.

USA vs UK

The USA has much stricter online gambling regulations compared to the United Kingdom who has a more relaxed approach to gambling. Players in the UK are able to access online gambling sites such as casino, poker and bingo sites as long as the gambling operators have a valid license and are regulated by the UK Gaming Authority. 

With bingo being such a popular game in the UK, it saw a large market growth when transitioning online as more people were able to play a game of bingo at their own convenience. Sites like Wink Bingo attracted new players to try a game of online bingo by offering players promotions and discounts when they first signed up. This led to more players signing up to online bingo and enjoying their favorite game online instead of in a physical environment like bingo halls, leading to the decline of these venues in the UK. 

Online gambling sites such as online bingo is popular in the UK who have a much-relaxed approach towards online gambling than the USA.

Attitudes are shifting in the USA, with the positive aspects of gambling beginning to outweigh the negative. More people want the ability to play casino games as a way to relax and socialize with friends on a night out, or to be able to play online from home when they have free time. Many states also recognize the benefits that a properly run and regulated gambling sector can have on the economy and are therefore willing to consider opening up their borders to such activities. 

In the near future, it is highly likely that more forms of online gambling become available to users in different states. In fact, many states already have bills being considered on this very subject. Many of these addresses online sport betting, which is seen as the first wave of gambling reforms, but if successful, they will pave the way for other forms of gambling, such as online poker and online bingo. With bingo already viewed as one of the milder forms of gambling, and with its popularity refusing to wane, it can’t be long before it becomes the next exception to the blanket bans. But until it does, at least players can play bingo games legally in bingo halls all over the USA.

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