Texas Bingo Halls
Bingo is legal in Texas, one of only a few forms of gambling that state law allows.
There are restrictions, however. Bingo games must be conducted for charitable purposes only, and only licensed organizations can host them.
Charitable bingo is a huge industry in Texas where players spend more than $800 million annually on legal bingo games. Each year, charities receive more than $30 million from Texas bingo games.
Here’s an overview of Texas bingo halls, covering their legal status, where you can play bingo in the state, and other information about what Texans like to call “The Most Charitable Game in Texas.”
Are bingo halls legal in Texas?
Yes, they are. Texas lawmakers first made charitable bingo legal in 1981, and the state began issuing licenses to conduct bingo games the following year. A few years after that, voters approved an amendment to the state constitution explicitly legalizing charitable bingo games.
Article 3, Section 47 of the state’s constitution prohibits “lotteries and gift enterprises,” but provides an exception for “charitable bingo, charitable raffles, and state lotteries.”
Texas lawmakers are given the right “to authorize and regulate bingo games” conducted by a wide variety of organizations. However, such games are only allowed if the voters in a given county, precinct, city, or town vote to allow them.
The Bingo Enabling Act of 2001 further defines both how the bingo games should be conducted and who may offer them. The law explains how the Texas Lottery Commission oversees bingo in the state. The commission’s Charitable Bingo Operations Division regulates all bingo activities in the state, including overseeing the issuing of licenses to organizations to conduct bingo.
Who can host bingo games in Texas?
The constitution lists the types of organizations that can host charitable bingo games. That is, of course, if local voters approve. These organizations include:
- Churches, synagogues, or religious societies
- Volunteer fire departments
- Nonprofit veterans organizations or fraternal organizations
- Nonprofit organizations supporting medical research or treatment programs
Voters in 226 of 254 counties in Texas have approved referendums to allow bingo games. Today, the Texas Lottery Commission reports that over 1,300 licensed organizations conduct bingo games in Texas.
Where can you play bingo in Texas?
Bingo halls take many forms in Texas. There are many well-established bingo halls with regular licenses renewed every one or two years. Organizations can also obtain temporary licenses to host a limited number of bingo sessions in order to raise money for a charity.
In other words, you might find yourself playing bingo in a large, crowded facility like the Texas BingoPlex Fort Worth or in a quiet school gymnasium where the PTA has obtained a temporary license to conduct a one-off bingo session.
Texas is a large state, but even in rural areas, there is often a bingo hall within driving distance. Meanwhile, large cities like Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, and Fort Worth all have dozens of bingo halls in and around them.
The law stipulates that each licensed organization can only conduct three “bingo occasions” per week, with each lasting no more than four hours. Thus, in a lot of cases, you’ll see bingo halls open during the late afternoon and early evening on selected days (e.g., Friday, Saturday, and Sunday).
That said, you’ll also find some of the bigger bingo halls open seven days a week. They manage this by having multiple organizations, each with its own license, conduct the games at the same location.
For example, Big Tex Bingo in Houston is open every day of the week, but works with seven different charities, each taking a turn one day a week as the organization providing the games.
How do you play bingo for real money in Texas?
For the most part, you play bingo games in Texas either the traditional way using paper cards or electronically on bingo computers.
When playing with bingo cards, you mark numbers as they are announced. Once a row, column, or diagonal is completed, you call out “Bingo!” to win the prize. Some bingo halls require players to purchase a special dauber with which they must mark their cards.
The electronic bingo games appear on computer screens, not unlike video slots or video poker. These games often allow players the luxury of sitting back and watching their numbers light up on their own when they are called. This allows players to play many cards at once, up to 66 at a time.
While most bingo games follow the traditional format, there are many bingo variants as well. This includes games with multiple numbers per square, and “speedball” games played at a faster pace. The cost to play games and the prizes awarded vary from location to location, and even from game to game within a single bingo occasion.
Note that individuals younger than 18 years old are allowed to play bingo in Texas, but only if they are accompanied by a parent or guardian. That said, the licensed organizations can, if they wish, post notices prohibiting those younger than 18 from entering their bingo hall.
How much can you win at Texas bingo halls?
The law specifically states that a bingo prize may not have a value of more than $750 for a single game.
There are further restrictions, including that a player cannot win more than $2,500 in multiple prizes during “a single bingo occasion.”
These limits do not apply to pull-tab bingo games.
Pull-tabs at Texas bingo halls
Pull-tab bingo is a game played with paper tickets that contain perforated tabs. Pull-tab games sometimes go by other names, including “pop-opens,” “break-opens,” “cherry bells,” “pickle cards” or “instant bingo.”
The tabs are pulled back by the player to reveal hidden symbols or numbers, not unlike scratch-off lottery tickets. There are a couple of different ways to play pull-tabs in Texas bingo halls, as instant tickets or event tickets.
For the instant tickets, the winning combinations are shown on the front of the ticket. The player knows right away if the revealed combinations match the winning ones and if the ticket is a winner.
For the event tickets, some subsequent action determines whether or not a ticket is a winner. The action might be a drawing or spinning wheel, or even a mini-bingo game. In those cases, the event determines the winning combinations, and players look to see if they match the ones on their tickets.
At Texas bingo halls, pull-tab games can produce large prizes. Winning pull-tab tickets need to be redeemed during the session or bingo occasion when they were sold.
Can you play online bingo in Texas?
Online bingo games are not legal in Texas. Nor is any other form of real money online gambling.
However, some social and sweepstakes sites that serve Texas players do offer bingo games as part of their online casinos. For example, Chumba Casino includes one bingo title, Flambingo, among its slots games.