Is bingo gambling?

Bingo is a game of chance which is played using cards. The game has several players and a host who calls out numbers as the players try to match them to the cards they have. This game started out in 1929, however there has been great variations as to how it is played in various countries and states. The question as to whether bingo is gambling or not has been in existence for the longest period.  In most countries, gambling is considered to be a penal offence. Hence the ongoing argument on whether bingo is gambling or not.

Bingo is not gambling

As a result, the answer to this question is not as straightforward as it ought to be. On one end, it is a social game that is mostly played for free and in most cases in fundraising activities in order to raise funds to support noble causes. Hence supporting the notion that it is just a game and nothing more. As a result of this, most people’s mind-sets have shifted to thinking of it as just that. A game that causes and does no harm.  

To further support bingo as not being gambling, it is worth noting that bingo has no negative connotation attached to it as other gambling games. On a Sunday afternoon, you might find a whole family sitting down to play the game together. While playing the game with your family, the aim is not to win prizes but to spend time together and have fun. 

In Kenya, the betting, lotteries and gaming Act of 1966 is silent on the matter of whether bingo is gambling. It does not clearly stipulate any definite regulations towards either online or traditional bingo gaming. It is therefore safe to say that in Kenya, playing the game is not considered to be gambling as such.

Circumstances when bingo is considered gambling

However, despite the fact that the law is quiet on this matter does not mean that it is entirely legal. Bingo is considered to be illegal if the following conditions hold:

  1. If one is spending too much time playing the game – One can get addicted to playing bingo and when this happens, it is treated as gambling
  2. When one uses their credit cards to fund their bingo activities 
  3. If you are underage and are found playing the game. In Kenya, if you are 18years and below then you might be charged for gambling if you are found playing1t.
  4. Since bingo is a game of chance, then technically, it is considered to be gambling as any other game of chance
  5. If money is exchanged in order to win more money as one will be risking their own money in order to gain more
  6. When one spends too much money on playing bingo

Despite the conditions listed above, it is still not clear whether it is gambling or not. Therefore, it is important to look at the various classifications of Bingo. There are two major reclassifications of bingo i.e Cash bingo which implies that one has to pay in order to play and win cash prizes while on the other hand, there is prize bingo whereby upon playing, one is eligible to win various prizes. 

In most countries and states that have regularised bingo, they will always require a facility that is offering people to play cash bingo to be licensed. Therefore, directly implying that playing this type of bingo is gambling. On the other hand though, playing prize bingo is not regularised as this is majorly played in churches and other non profit organisations.


Bingo in Kenya is not as popular as in the Western countries. However, there are some online sites for playing bingo that allow Kenyas to play online bingo. While playing on these sites, it is important to take note of the laws and regulations of the parent country of the company website you are using as this shall be used as the governing law.

In conclusion, it is very difficult to clearly say that bingo is gambling or not as there are no clear guidelines to this thorny question. However, in this discussion, one thing stands out. Which is if you are playing for cash then you are gambling. But if and when you play for prizes that in most cases may not be of benefit to you, then you are probably not gambling.

There are however instances whereby, you might find yourself playing for both cash wins and prizes. In these instances, trying to gauge whether one is gambling or not is up to the person themselves.

Is bingo gambling? I do not know, what are your thoughts?

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Mary is one of the leading writers on Urban Kenyans. She is knowledgable on matters Kenya and has been able to educate many Kenyans on this platform.

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