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Bingo Halls

Bingo halls offer people of all ages a fun, social environment.

Bingo halls acquire licenses and permits at both the county and state levels to keep the game a matter of legal gambling. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
Bingo halls acquire licenses and permits at both the county and state levels to keep the game a matter of legal gambling.

According to the American Gaming Association, as of 2006, the game of bingo accounted for $2.24 billion in gaming revenue in the United States, making it a profitable pastime for many.

Bingo has been a popular game in the United States since its arrival in 1929 at a carnival in Georgia. Originally called "beano," the game of bingo originated in Germany. With the name change, additional rules were added to the game, giving it its current structure. Playing bingo is a great way to pass the time, socialize with friends and family and, of course, win prizes.

Bingo Playing Opportunities

Today, the game of bingo is played at numerous venues across the country and varies in scope from the bingo game of the private residence to the large bingo halls of the organized gaming industry. Popular sites for bingo games include social clubs, church basements, town halls, fire halls, carnivals, county fairs and bingo halls. 

People play bingo for fun and charity on the local level, where profits go straight to a local foundation or organization. Bingo licenses and permits are offered at both the county and state levels to keep the game a matter of legal gambling. No matter what area of the country a person resides in, a bingo game is never far away. A quick perusal of the local newspaper, church bulletin or town notice board will let avid players and excited newcomers find the next bingo game in the local circuit.

Bingo Playing Equipment

When it comes to playing bingo there are a few items that are considered essential to the game.

  • The bingo bag. This holds all bingo gadgets, good luck charms and equipment. It can be homemade, a reused item or a specialty made bingo bag.
  • A roll of tape. This is for holding bingo cards in place on the table, holding sets of cards together and taping door prize tickets to your area of the table to prevent theft or gusts of wind from taking away potential prizes.
  • Ink daubers. About the size of a thick marker pen, daubers are plastic bottles with sponges on the end used to mark the numbers called on the bingo cards. Coming in a variety of colors, some players have a favorite color, while others take along an assortment in their bingo bags. Daubers can be purchased in advance or at the bingo hall.
  • Markers. Some bingo players like to temporarily mark a number on their cards as they wait for it to be called. Often this is accomplished using small colored glass beads, stones, pennies or circular candies. This lets the other players at the table know that only one number is needed for victory.
  • Good luck charms. Another favorite of the professional bingo player, good luck charms can be anything from photographs of friends and family to plush animals, or even the empty dauber from recent victories. Good luck charms are optional.
  • A pen. This is great for noting changes to the gaming schedule, as well as special numbers that offer additional monies.
  • A cushion. This helps with the long hours of sitting and waiting for numbers to come up. Specially purchased bingo cushions are preferred.
  • Snacks. Some bingo halls run all night programs and although many offer food, it may only be for the first few hours of play. A candy or cereal bar in the bottom of the bingo bag will help the player stay focused. Beverages are also a good idea.
  • Money. Cash is the best type of money to take to the bingo hall, limiting the amount of cards in play and forcing the player to stick to a predetermined budget. Large bingo halls take credit cards.

This basic list of items is usually gathered over time, but the first-time player who arrives at the bingo hall with such essentials in hand will quickly gain the respect of the seasoned players.

Basic Bingo Night Process

Although considered a simple game, die-hard bingo players will be sure to inform newcomers of intricate protocols and procedures when it comes to a night of serious gaming. The basic steps might include:

  • Arriving well in advance of the first game. If a bingo hall advertises that bingo starts at 7 p.m., the wise player will arrive anywhere from an hour to a half hour before play. This ensures preferred seating arrangements, as well as time to purchase supplies and snacks and catch up on the social scene.
  • Purchasing cards. It is important to purchase all of the basic cards needed for the evening's play in the beginning, in case the bingo hall runs out. Additional cards can be purchased at the table.
  • Reviewing the evening's guidelines. Most bingo halls supply a flyer showing the game schedule, prize information, house rules and any specials for the evening. This is a must have and should be taped to the table for safekeeping.
  • Listening to the bingo caller. The bingo hall is always a hive of social activity but all noise should cease once a game begins, allowing all players to hear the numbers called.
  • Marking off the called numbers on the correct game sheet using an ink dauber. This is a basic bingo procedure and should continue in a focused fashion until a "bingo," as defined by the house rules, shows on the cards.
  • Calling bingo. When bingo is called, play stops and a bingo hall worker will check the numbers against those of the bingo caller. Once the win has been verified and prize money distributed, the next game will start.

The number of games and the amount of prizes depends on the size of the bingo hall and the number of players in attendance.

The Serious Side of the Bingo Game

Like any other game that involves gambling, bingo can quickly go from a fun night out to a serious addiction. What started as a frivolous way to spend twenty dollars on the weekend has become a daily event (sometimes more than once a day) and every spare penny (and sometimes not so spare) is spent in pursuit of the bingo hall buzz. The National Council on Problem Gambling offers symptom information as well as treatment options for gambling addiction.

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