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Questionable Coupons

Dear Aunt Bingo:

With all the discussion about whether Bingo workers and/or their family members should play at their own halls, I wanted to add a different perspective about the subject.

While it may be true that it is difficult to cheat at Bingo because the winning numbers are random, there are ways that give Bingo workers an unfair advantage.

At a hall where I used to play (key words being used to), players may purchase coupons for discounts; for example, buy two $20 coupons, get a free $20 coupon.

If the workers are using these coupons and not paying for them, or giving them to their family members, this is an advantage over regular players. There is a limit of one coupon per session, but if the workers (who just happen to buy their packages when no one is around) are allowed to use more than one coupon, again unfair.

When this happens, or workers get additional free cards with “gift certificates,” they have an advantage over paying players. Turns out at my hall they were just printing their own coupons and giving them out to family members. So, when Bingo worker Rosie’s husband wins, it is almost all profit since he did not pay the correct amount.

Fraud and theft charges are pending; can’t wait to see the outcome for these cheaters.

Love your column and recognize this is not a cheery letter but your readers are right…better to play at halls where you don’t work.

ESH, Minnesota


Dear ESH:

Wow, what a story! It’s amazing that this Bingo would have a BOGO-style coupon system, especially when it produces its own coupons, which obviously can be printed out by anyone with access to their computer system.

It strikes me that this creates several problems for the hall—the alleged distribution of free coupons by staff which you claim; loss of revenue by having too many players showing up and not paying the buy-in, resulting in prize money being paid out that is not being covered by those buy-ins; and an imbalance in the books that would be revealed in an audit.

If I was in charge of a Bingo where free passes were being handed out too freely, I would be particularly fearful of item four: the audit.

My understanding is that Bingo games can be reviewed and audited by the host state at any time, and that if questionable money management is revealed, criminal charges can result.

The coupon system you describe is obviously legal in your state, but letting some players allegedly play for free while others foot the bill must certainly be a violation.

Please keep us posted on the status of the fraud and theft charges that you say are pending. I’m sure readers will be very interested in the outcome.  —Aunt Bingo


Dear Aunt Bingo:

I recently made a fool of myself at Bingo by calling a Bingo before I had all the numbers.

I haven’t played in a long time but assumed it was easy from my experience playing as a child and went to my church’s Bingo to try it out.

Things were fine until they played a letter “I” game which I assumed was five-in-a-row in any direction. It wasn’t clear to me that it was five-in-a-row plus four additional numbers that crossed at the top and the bottom of the “I.” So, I got five in a row, called Bingo, it was announced to the entire room that I had messed up, the worker explained the mistake to me like I was 5 years old, and I got a lot of disapproving looks from the players sitting near me. I could have died.

It would be nice to go to Bingo again, but I don’t want to make another mistake. Any suggestions?

Dumbell in Ohio


Dear Reader (I am not going to call you Dumbell!):

Here are a few suggestions for you:

Go online and search for sites that have a collection of Bingo patterns and get familiar with them. There are hundreds of patterns in use so don’t expect to memorize them all. But it will be a good introduction for you.

You can also ask a hall worker if he or she can provide you with a sheet of patterns that the hall uses. They may or may not have one, but it is worth asking and having next to you when a pattern is being played

Many experienced Bingo players are more than happy to show a novice the ropes. On your next Bingo outing, look around for someone who appears friendly, sit at their table and explain that you are new and would they mind if you asked questions if you don’t understand something.

You can also mention this to a Bingo worker. If the worker isn’t otherwise assigned, he or she can stand near you to answer a question should something come up.

Don’t worry about your calling error; it happens to the best of us. Just hang in there and you’ll become a Bingo pro in no time. —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 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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