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Bingo in US

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Bingo is a game of chance where randomly-selected numbers are drawn and players match those numbers to those appearing on 5×5 matrices which are printed or electronically represented and are known as “cards.” The first person to have a card where the drawn numbers form a specified pattern is the winner and calls out “Bingo!” to alert others to the win. Bingo is a game used for legalized gambling in some countries.

A very similar game called housie is played in New Zealand, Australia, and the UK (where it is called Bingo). This game differs only in ticket layout and calling.

Description of the game

Each bingo player is given a card marked with a grid containing a unique combination of numbers and, in some countries, blank spaces. The winning pattern to be formed on the card is announced. On each turn, a non-player known as the caller randomly selects a numbered ball from a container and announces the number to all the players. The ball is then set aside so that it cannot be chosen again. Each player searches his card for the called number, and if he finds it, marks it. The element of skill in the game is the ability to search one’s card for the called number in the short time before the next number is called.

The caller continues to select and announce numbers until the first player forms the agreed pattern (one line, two lines, full house) on their card and shouts out the name of the pattern or bingo. One of the most common patterns, called full card, blackout and cover-all simply consists of marking all the numbers on the card. Other common Canadian and American patterns are single line, two lines, centre cross, L, Y, inner square (4 × 4), roving square (3 × 3), and roving kite (a 3 × 3 diamond). On Canadian and American cards lines can be made horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. Inner and roving squares and kites must be completely filled; roving squares and kites may be made anywhere on the card.

Bingo Cards

Canadian and American bingo cards are 5 × 5 grids of numbers only; dual daub, dual dab, or “double-action” cards have two numbers in each square. Each space in the grid contains a number, except for the centre square, which is considered filled. The highest number used is 75. The columns are headed with the letters of the word BINGO, and the letter is called with the number — for example, B-10, I-25, N-40, G-55, O-70. Numbers 1 to 15 are assigned to the B column, 16 to 30 to the I column, 31 to 45 to the N column, 46 to 60 to the G column, and 61 to 75 to the O column.

Each card has a unique serial number to permit quick verification by computer.


A typical bingo dauber, which is also used for housie tickets

Canadian and American games often have multiple bingos — for example, the players may first play for a single line, then after that is called continue playing for a full card, then for a consolation full card.

In Canadian and American Halls, players often play multiple cards for each game; thirty is not an unusual number. Because of the large numbers of cards played by each player, most Canadian and American halls have the players sit at tables to which they often fasten their cards with adhesive tape. To mark cards faster the players usually use special markers called dabbers. At commercial halls, after calling the number the caller then displays the next number on a television monitor; bingo cannot be called until that number is called aloud, however. The numbers already called and the patterns being played are also displayed on electric signs.

In American primary schools, bingo is used to teach students. The numbers are replaced with letters, pictures, words or symbols that represent important concepts.


Bingo can be traced back to a game called Lotto, played in Italy in 1530. The bingo name comes from a corruption of the name Beano, the name of a form of bingo played in the United States in the 1920s. Beano was so called because beans were used to cover the numbers. The name of the game was changed to “Bingo” when an excited player called out “bingo” instead of “beano.” The name stuck.

The business of bingo

In the US, the game is primarily staged by churches or charity organizations. Their legality and stakes vary by state regulation. In some states, bingo halls are rented out to sponsoring organizations, and such halls often run games almost every day. Church-run games, however, are normally weekly affairs held on the church premises. These games are usually played for modest stakes, although the final game of a session is frequently a coverall game that offers a larger jackpot prize for winning within a certain quantity of numbers called; a progressive jackpot may increase per session until it is won.

Commercial bingo games in the US are primarily offered by casinos (and then only in the state of Nevada), and by Native American bingo halls. In Nevada, bingo is usually offered only by casinos that cater to local gamblers, and not the famous tourist resorts. They will usually offer several two-hour sessions daily, with relatively modest stakes except for coverall jackpots. Station Casinos, a chain of locals-oriented casinos in Las Vegas, offers a special game each session that ties all of its properties together with a large progressive jackpot. Native American games are typically offered for only one or two sessions a day, and are often played for higher stakes than charity games in order to draw players from distant places. Some also offer a special progressive jackpot game that may tie together players from multiple bingo halls.

As well as bingo played “in house”, the larger commercial operators play some games linked by telephone across several, perhaps dozens, of their clubs. This increases the prize money, but greatly reduces the chance of winning due to the much greater number of players.

There are examples where Bingo halls are linked togeter in a network to provide alternative winning structures and higher to prizes. Loto Quebec in Canada have connected bingo halls in such a manner.

Bingo is also the basis for online games sold through licensed lotteries. Tickets are sold like for Lotto and the player get a receipt with his/her numbers, like a bingo card. The daily or weekly draw is normally broadcast on TV. These games offers higher prizes and it is typically more difficult to win. Examples are the game Extra provided by Norsk Tipping in Norway and Boxen provided by Dansk Tipstjeneste in Denmark.

The Bingo logic is frequently used on scratch card games. The numbers are pre-drawn for each card and hidden until the card is scratched. In lotteries with online networks the price is electronically confirmed to avoid fraud based on physical fixing.

Alternate variations

Two notable modern variations of bingo have achieved some kind of status in American culture:

  • Buzzword bingo (also called bullshit bingo)
  • Bovine bingo
  • Online bingo


This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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