Wait, that’s illegal?

Bingo laws in North Carolina limit winning it big at the beach

More stories from Julia Van Allen

Seeking Solace
May 13, 2019

One of my favorite things to do at hometown festivals is sit down with family or friends and play a round or two of bingo. It’s a relatively inexpensive activity at most festivals and can provide hours of entertainment. What I tend to forget, as far as bingo goes, is its status as a gambling activity.

In North Carolina there are laws in place to prevent commercialized gambling through bingo. How do they do this? With bingo laws, yes that’s right, bingo laws.

Technically, these bingo laws are enforced under the Alcohol Law Enforcement section of North Carolina law. These bingo laws have different sections, but the one I’m most interested in involves beach bingo. I didn’t even realize that beach bingo was an option until now. My eyes have been opened and I feel truly enlightened.

According to the General Assembly of North Carolina House Bill 292,  “SECTION 1. G.S. 14-309.14 is amended by adding the following new subdivision: “(5) A person shall not operate a beach bingo game at any location without first obtaining a license as provided by this subdivision. Any person operating a beach bingo game without a license is guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.”

Now, if I’m reading that correctly, a person who wants to conduct a beach bingo game officially in the state of North Carolina needs a license to do so. This law lays out the process to get a bingo license and is curated by the State Bureau of Investigation.

The ramifications of a Class 2 misdemeanor aren’t easy to swallow. If a person were found guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor, they would be slammed with a $1,000 fine and/or a 6 to 9 month stay in jail. Even with so-called “lesser crimes”, the penalties are not messing around.

Just the application fee for acquiring said license is $300. To me, that’s insane, but, then again, if this process is successful in curbing commercialized gambling then maybe it has a place. Personally, I’m not much of a gambler. I like a good game of bingo here and there, but I’m probably the last person to walk into a casino and try to make it big.

However, the fact that bingo is staunchly regulated says something about the status of gambling in the U.S. While gambling is legal in the U.S., it is strictly regulated in each state. For example, two states in the union have completely criminalized gambling. In Hawai’i and Utah, any sort of gambling is strictly prohibited.

While gambling is legal in many states in the U.S., that doesn’t mean it’s a free – for – all. With laws like this one limiting even small operations like a beachside bingo game, it’s an interesting concept to think about. Gambling is regulated by-and-large to keep games crime-free and safe. When it comes down to it, keeping those who may be at risk safe is always the best option.

Laws regarding gambling may change over time, but at the moment be careful with any beachside bingo games. The person calling out G-42 may not have the proper licensing they need.

Van Allen can be reached at [email protected].