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Chance, prize, consideration

Dear Aunt Bingo:
At a casino in Las Vegas, everyone who buys a Bingo card gets a free card that has the lowest payout. I think that “free” card they give you helps the house not the player because everyone gets it and it increases the odds that the lowest payout card will be a winner. Also, almost every player pays $1 to validate that free card which means the house collects all those dollars. What do you think?
FV, East Rockaway, NY, via email

Dear FV:
As a general rule, I think it’s pretty safe to assume that any gaming that happens in Las Vegas—or at any other casino worldwide—is going to favor the house. All those flashing lights, clanging bells and discount dinner buffets don’t pay for themselves!
Your thinking strikes me as correct—the more lowest-payout cards on the floor means the greater odds that one of them will be the one that Bingos. The $1 validation is odd; it’s so little money, you wonder why the casino bothers to collect it. My guess is that there is some legal reason behind it. By paying a dollar, the card isn’t really “free,” but has been purchased through this validation process. —Aunt Bingo

Dear Aunt Bingo:
Our high school wants to have a fundraiser and my idea is to have a Bingo night. I mentioned this to one of the other parents and she said it sounds like it would be fun but that it might be illegal because Bingo is gambling and is controlled by the state. Is this true? And if so, does that mean that every time somebody plays Bingo that is not state-supervised that #1, it is gambling and #2, they are breaking the law? This seems pretty far-fetched to me.
Lee J., Ohio, via email

Dear Lee:
It’s not Bingo itself which is regulated by the state, but the wagering part of Bingo, where people pay money with the hope of winning more money by playing the game. It’s the same as in a casino, where people feed money into slot machines or wager at the tables: they are handing over their money with the goal of taking away more. And wherever money is being exchanged for the chance to collect more money, there is always the danger of cheating, crime and corruption slipping in. This results in the need for government supervision and laws to keep gaming safe and fair.
Bingo and casino nights are great fundraisers, and are perfectly fine so long as people are not trying to win money. Instead, they compete for prizes, typically donated by sponsors, local retailers and the like. There are actually businesses that help run these types of fundraisers and provide the equipment and help you need to make the event a success. All you need to do is search the web under “casino night equipment rental” or “Bingo night equipment rental” for a company near you.
When running this type of fundraiser, it never hurts to contact your local gaming commission to make sure you aren’t breaking any laws. The equipment rental company will also be helpful in this area, as the last thing they want to do is be put out of business by the state. —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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