Bingo!! The Laws Regulating the Game in Texas
April 1, 2013 | By Vela Wood
As we discussed in an earlier blog, gambling in Texas is definitely moving in the direction of legalization. While slot machines and craps tables, not to mention other “games of chance” might not have the nod from the government yet (we’ll discuss those all in upcoming blogs), one form of “gambling” does exist legally in Texas—bingo.
Now, when we start discussing bingo, your mind probably doesn’t go exactly to “gambling,” but, according to the Texas Legislature, bingo is a game of chance that you pay to play…that’s the definition of gambling in Texas! It’s also the reason that bingo is so heavily regulated within the state. Generally speaking, this means that not just anyone can decide to host a bingo game or open a bingo hall (lawfully)—there are some serious hoops you have to jump through to have the Lottery Commission (the governing body responsible for bingo regulation) give you the okay. Texas is one of the very few states that has a constitutional provision authorizing the regulation of bingo games and halls.
The Bingo Enabling Act, codified into the Occupations Code in 1999, is quite lengthy, and provides many precise definitions and directions for those wishing to operate bingo games in Texas. The Act explicitly prohibits organizations less than three years old from conducting bingo activities within the state. Even if your organization has been around for more than three years, you won’t be able to run a bingo game or hall unless you are one of the following types of organizations: fraternal orders, religious societies, non-profits dedicated to medical research, veterans’ organizations, or volunteer firefighter or EMS groups.
The Texas Lottery Commission is serious about enforcing the bingo laws currently in effect, too. You can get heavily fined if you’re caught operating an unauthorized bingo game, even if it is for charitable purposes. The Lottery Commission is even receiving an extra $1.3 million in the budget this year in order to hire more auditors in the bingo division to help enforce these laws.
So while bingo is really the only true form of “gambling” game authorized by the state of Texas, it’s not a free-for-all to go nuts hosting and playing bingo. Make sure that you follow the detailed procedures laid out in the Act, and if you have questions or want to get your legal ducks in a row to open or become involved with a bingo hall or bingo game, then give us a call! We have experience–and We’re Here to Help.