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It’s a numbers game

Can you still have bingo and gaming in pubs?

Greene King may have conceded their battle with the Gambling Commission on commercial bingo in pubs but you can still have bingo and gaming machines in your premises. Here’s how.

Bingo is permitted under the Gambling Act 2005 as equal chance exempt gaming. You do not need to obtain permissions. You can just do it.

The exemption applies to all premises which hold an alcohol on-licence, and there are limits and conditions on the provision of the bingo which must be adhered to. For instance:

  • You cannot charge the bingo players for participating;
  • All the money paid by the players to buy the bingo cards must go back to the players as prizes, you cannot take a rake or levy from the stakes;
  • You cannot have bingo linked across pubs;
  • Under 18’s are not allowed to play bingo. Even if Granny is playing with her Grandson, he is not permitted to dab her card as this would be participation in the game.

There are also financial limits:

  • A player cannot spend more than £5 per game on bingo cards. So if each card costs £1 for each game, the player cannot buy more than 5 cards;
  • You must ensure that the stakes and prizes do not exceed £2,000 in any seven day period. If you do exceed £2,000 then you must inform the Gambling Commission, and if you exceed £2,000 again in any seven day period, you are committing an offence and you could be putting your Premises Licence at risk.

There is also a Code of Practice published by the Gambling Commission which applies to pubs providing bingo. Responsibility for compliance with the Code of Practice sits with the Designated Premises Supervisor. The Code of Practice includes requirements on (i) the ancillary nature of the bingo (you can’t become a bingo hall, you must remain a pub) (ii) supervision of the game by staff, and (iii) age verification. Our favourite part of the code: the DPS should ensure a “pleasant atmosphere” and deny participation to customers who cheat or collude with other players or employees, threaten other players or employees, or damage equipment. The joys of running a pub!

As to gaming machines you must either

  • Pay £50 and notify the licensing authority, within whose area your premises are located, for the right to make available one or two category C (£100 jackpot) or D gaming machine (cranes and pushers); or
  • Apply to the licensing authority for a licensing premises gaming machine permit for more than three machines. You must specify the number of category C and number of D machines in the application. There is an application fee of £150 and annual fee of £50.

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