4 Times Playing Bingo Broke The Law

  • Updated
  • By Sarah Charmley
Illegal bingo

From the illegal to the ridiculous, who knew that a simple game of bingo could be so dangerous?

1. Bingo raid in a Portuguese pub

Holidaymakers playing bingo for biscuits and drinks were arrested and fined by Portuguese police who accused them of taking part in the exploitation of illegal gambling. The pub was closed as staff and customers were taken to the station in police vans.

People in the bar who had been enjoying a drink rather than taking part in the game were included in the arrests and fined €150 and given a three month suspended sentence for witnessing illegal gambling.

The tourists and pub owners were brought before the courts the following morning.

The pub has been open for eight years and has no intention of running a bingo game again.

Portuguese gambling law

People who want to organise bingo or similar games of chance in Portugal must apply for a government licence and satisfy the regulations required.

2. Worcestershire pensioners’ accused of running a gambling den

A group of sheltered housing pensioners played a £1 jackpot bingo game for around 38 years, but when the local council heard about it, they were banned from playing for money. They were unaware that it was against the law and used the money to fund days out.

The pensioners have been told that they can play for fun or for gifts, but some of the other groups contacted by the council have now stopped their games.

Playing bingo helped the residents sharpen their mental skills and they enjoyed meeting with their friends.

The council denied that it was being a killjoy, but have asked that the prizes for games are not cash.

UK gambling law

The Gambling Act 2005 does not allow unlicensed premises to charge for taking part in a bingo game and will not allow those charges to be used as prizes.

3. Bingo confiscated in Benidorm

Spanish authorities have been raiding bars in Benidorm and shutting down bingo games which are illegal at unlicensed places.

In one pub recently, the police confiscated electronic bingo machines, cards, microphones and cash worth over €22,000.

Four staff members were interviewed by the police who arrived when over 100 tourists were on the premises. The players were warned that they were taking part in illegal gambling.

Bingo games are now advertised as ‘Housey Housey’ or ‘Eyes Down’ in Benidorm pubs in an effort to bypass police attention.

Spanish gambling law

To be safe, bingo fans who are on holiday in Spain should only play at licensed premises as unlicensed gambling is forbidden. It’s also against the law to play for gifts in Spain.

4. Bingo hall raided in Houston, Texas

A bingo hall and five other game rooms were raided by police on suspicion of organised crime activity in Houston. Game rooms are allowed to have eight-liner games machines, but should only pay out winnings or prizes to players of $5 or less.

Twelve people were arrested during the raid in 2016. Police found a vault in the bingo hall with stockpiles of military food supplies, guns and body armour, but the owners of the business denied any connection.

One member of staff was charged with illegal gambling at both the bingo hall and one of the other games rooms and had money and equipment confiscated.

The bingo hall reopened 6 days later.

Texas gambling law

Casinos are banned in Texas, but Texans may bet on the horse or dog races or buy lottery tickets. Casinos on Indian reservation land are allowed.

Social gambling such as bingo games or charity auctions can be run as long as the organiser does not benefit financially from the game.