Bye, Bye Bingo

Days may be numbered for the bar game

It’s not just senior citizens who are enjoying the bingo revival at local bars. Most players are in their 20s. Bingo is back, offering bargoers options beyond trivia. However, those days may be numbered.

Recently, one local venue was officially warned for holding bingo and cited for engaging in or allowing gambling. According to North Carolina law 18B-308, it’s unlawful to consume or sell alcohol in any room where a bingo game is being conducted. The last time the statute was updated was more than 30 years ago.

Several venues assumed that if they weren’t charging people to play bingo, it wouldn’t be considered gambling. Not so, according to the department of Alcohol Law Enforcement. If prizes are awarded, it’s still considered bingo.

Currently, two laws address bingo in North Carolina. The first statute focuses on bingo games held by non-profits; the second is known as a beach bingo law, which lawfully allows for prizes as long as they are under $10 in value. But as of Oct. 1, 2016, a new statute requires businesses to apply for and receive a beach bingo license yearly. Of course, regardless of whether or not you have a license, it’s illegal to hold a game where alcohol is served.

The definition of “bingo” continues to create uncertainty amongst bars in the area that have been using the game as a mode of entertainment. Does musical bingo count? What if you use pictures instead of numbers?

Double D Bingo is one company that has been running games in the Triangle, but since the citation, owner Daphne McDaniel has put her business on hold. Regulars have been left scratching their heads, wondering what’s the big difference between playing bingo or playing trivia at a bar.

“I actually enjoy the bingo more than trivia,” says Michael Gala, who has frequented local games. “I just want to do something without a lot of thought, drink beer, talk to friends, and still have a chance to win something.”

Cathleen Poole, the bingo administrator at Alcohol Law Enforcement, says agents are not actively searching for bingo games to close down. “Ninety-nine percent of citations come from complaints, and we have to follow up,” she says.

Alexandra Drosu
Alexandra Drosu

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