Traditionally, bingo games were used to raise money for the state, and in the centuries since, these games have become commonplace on our high streets and more recently online.
In the instances above, the bingo halls and sites are licensed businesses. However, this guide is not for those who wish to set up a bingo business.
This guide is designed for those who are interested in raising some funds for a church, animal shelter, or a one-off charitable project. In a nutshell, this guide is for non-commercial, equal chance gaming.
Note: If you’re planning a bingo night, it’s your responsibility to ensure compliance with the law – if in doubt, seek legal advice. Whilst intended to be accurate, our guide is supplied for entertainment purposes only.
Step One: Know the Laws
Legally, you need a gambling license to run a “for-profit” bingo game, whereby you keep some or all of the profits for private reasons. It’s a different story with charitable bingo games, though. If the game is strictly for fundraising purposes, and the following rules are followed, you don’t need a license:
- Players must be charged no more than £8 per day (including participation and entrance fees).
- The total prizes for a single event must not exceed £600.
- No profit is to be retained by the organiser (for private gain).
- You must tell the players where the charitable donation is going.
- After reasonable costs have been deducted, all remaining funds must be given to a good cause.
“Reasonable costs”, could include the costs incurred by providing the prizes – to cite the example given by the gambling commission.
Step Two: Choose a Platform
2020 is the year that everyone wants to forget; the year that we’d like to erase from the history books, but while it might feel like a total loss for all of humanity, it did help to push video conferencing and remote working forward by many years. Everyone and their grandmother knows how to use video conferencing platforms these days, so you shouldn’t have an issue bringing people onboard.
You can use these platforms to connect everyone to the game. They can join in with the banter, make themselves seen using a webcam, or just stay quiet until they’re ready to raise their cards and shout.
All of the following platforms are free and easy to use:
- Zoom: The platform of choice during 2020, Zoom has actually been around for much longer and was very popular with business users and remote workers. 100 users can be added to a free call and while there are time limits, you should have more than enough time to arrange a game.
- Skype: You can download Skype on phones, laptops, tablets, and even Xbox consoles. It is universal—most people have used it and everyone knows how to use it. It’s also free for up to 50 users at once.
- Facetime: Although Facetime is free and easy to use, with up to 32 people added to a single room, it’s also limited to iOS and macOS users.
- Google Hangouts: A free program for up to 25 users. You need a Gmail account, but most users have one of those and the ones that don’t can sign up in a few minutes.
Be careful where you advertise the video conferencing link and who you allow to enter the room, as you don’t want a horde of trolls descending on your game. You’ll also need to make sure that the free version of your chosen software allows you to connect long enough, and with enough participants, to host your game.
The last thing you want is for a game to be reaching its peak when the chat shuts down and tells you that your limit has been reached. It might be for a good cause and for fun, but it still needs to be organised and professional.
Step Three: Prepare the Bingo Tickets
Welcome all players to your game with their very own bingo ticket. You can create these tickets on a computer, take a screenshot of them, and then send them to each participant. A bingo card creator like this will help you to piece the cards together. Alternatively, you can use a random number generator and a simple bingo card template.
It’s important to make it fun. Don’t simply send them a list of numbers in the chat window. Give them something that they can print out and mark or show them how to open the ticket on an image editor and use the paintbrush tool to mark it.
Step Four: Call the Numbers
If you’re an extroverted, engaging, and humorous person, then this is your time to shine! Use a random number generator to create a list of numbers and call them out, making sure you engage with the players.
Alternatively, you can use an automated bingo calling app, which you can find in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store, along with a host of computer apps.
Most video conferencing programs have a screen sharing feature that comes in handy here. You can load the bingo calling software on your computer or device, share your screen for everyone to see, and then call the numbers as they appear. That way, you won’t have players asking for you to repeat the numbers and there will be no valid claims that the game is rigged.
Step Five: Pay and Prepare
Video conferencing software is not without its issues. Some players may disconnect, others won’t be able to hear you properly, and there’s a good chance that one or two will struggle to connect at all.
To make sure everyone is prepared, spend some time at the beginning of the game checking that you can be heard and that everyone is connected.
You’ll also need to collect their participation fees and, eventually, pay their winnings. You can do this using a web wallet like PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Skrill, or Neteller. Give them a couple of options and try to avoid relying on bank transfers, as it’s a slow and often expensive method.
PayPal has donation buttons and personal payment links that will allow others to send money even if they don’t have a PayPal account, making it the perfect option for those online bingo events.
Step Six: Start Playing
After you have chosen your video conferencing software, prepared the tickets, and selected the calling method, it’s time to schedule the game, and start playing!
Make sure you know what your legal limitations are with regards to the size of the payouts, the participation fees, and the player numbers. Once you have the basics down, you can start promoting your event, using social media and word of mouth to get the word out without resorting to paid advertising.
Summary: Create Virtual Bingo Today
Bingo is the game for all occasions, whether you’re playing with friends and neighbours in your local bingo hall, using educational bingo to teach your kids, or playing online. It’s a fun night for everyone involved, and when you add some potential payouts and a good cause to the mix, it’s something that is sure to make everyone excited.
As we said at the beginning, be sure to read the UK Gambling Commission’s rules on fundraising with bingo. But other than that, good luck!