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Unofficial Bingo
Expecting a fair game

Dear Aunt Bingo,
I recently moved into a senior citizen apartment complex. They have money Bingo gambling with no prizes. Each session has about nine games. I played a total of two sessions, each session on a different day. I stopped playing when I found out the following.
1. The person running the Bingo sessions is a resident and is listed as the host in the community’s monthly calendar of events and is also the caller. This person also has another player “secretly” playing a Bingo card for her. Plus, this host/caller/player (three separate identities at the same time) won at least one of the money games at the last session I played, maybe more. After the session was over, in a conversation with a player who had won the most games, the player told me all the games won weren’t all hers—that the host/caller had also won on a card she was playing for her. I showed no reaction and asked no further questions. But, as I stated earlier, I stopped all Bingo playing there.
2. I didn’t mention this to any other player (always over 20 people), a main reason being I am a new tenant and didn’t want to start or get involved in any controversy.
3. The last session I played, the cash ball, had reached over $170 and I’ve heard it has gotten much higher in the past. Also, there’s a $3.50 per Bingo card charge to play in the session.
4. Another aspect: Both times on separate days, balls have “somehow” fallen out of the Bingo cage onto the floor, and the caller was calling numbers already called. A number of times we players had to say: “You already called that number!”
5. They have no gambling license and these Bingo sessions are held twice a week under the auspices of the apartment complex management.
6. After the first session I played I asked management (the office) for a copy of the policies governing Bingo playing at the complex. They indicated they would get me a copy. However, after my third time asking, the activities director admitted there were no written rules.
My questions:
1. Isn’t this illegal?
2. At a minimum, isn’t it unethical and wrong—and therefore illegal—to have the Bingo host who is running the session also be the caller and be secretly playing in the same games against all the other players by having another player play a card for her?
3. Since there is money involved and it is gambling, shouldn’t they have written rules (with a copy posted on our community bulletin board) and especially if written rules are asked for as I did?
Any other comments, suggestions, etc. about this situation would be appreciated. —CD, Las Vegas

Dear CD,
This is obviously not an official “licensed” operation, but more of a community Bingo pulled together by a senior resident with the approval of the apartment complex management. This is reinforced by that fact that “always over 20 people” play there (which is far too small a number for a licensed charity Bingo to survive) as well as the fact that one person is running it and calling the numbers.
The complication here is that money is involved (people paying to play and winning cash prizes)—which is a basic definition of gambling. If the games were free and the prizes were little dollar-store items, no one would probably care that balls were dropped and numbers were being called incorrectly. But once a buy-in is added, you expect fair, well-run Bingo to take place. When it gets sloppy with lots of mistakes, participants may get angry and feel cheated.
I think you are wise to stay away from this Bingo and leave it for people who are less concerned about how it is run. If I were you, I would find the nearest licensed Bingo hall with the rules and regulations you are looking for and spend your dollars there. —Aunt Bingo

Share your views! Write to Aunt Bingo c/o the Bingo Bugle, P.O. Box 527, Vashon, Washington 98070, or email her at STENGL456@aol.com. Be sure to include your name and address (you can request that your name not be published), as typically she will not include anonymous letters in her columns.

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