Do you know what the regulations are for playing bingo? If you are thinking about organising a bingo game or event, but are feeling concerned about the regulations, you are not alone.
Many organisations want to use bingo to raise funds and finance their projects. However, bingo regulations can seem fairly confusing when preparing for this type of event. A certain number of conditions must be respected to ensure you run your event legally.
To find out more information, our law firm has conducted a full legal assessment of the laws regulating the traditional bingo and lotto games in France. Take advantage of the offer here.
You will find the following points of information covered in this article:
- Legal Framework for gambling and what the law says.
- The concept of a restricted group is clarified by legal theory and case law.
- Bingo events must be run to fund a morally acceptable cause.
- Bingo games can be authorised for commercial businesses.
- Non-compliance with the law and the risks incurred.
Legal Framework for gambling and what the French law says
The organisation of traditional 90-ball bingo games is allowed under certain conditions! However, games of chance are prohibited.
Their organisation may, however, be allowed through derogation, provided that the legal framework strictly governing this type of activity is respected. Among the games of chance that may be allowed by derogation is traditional 90-ball bingo (commonly called loto in France).
Traditional 90-ball bingo rules in France
Traditional bingo games may only be allowed if they are held in a restricted group, for social, cultural, scientific, educational, or sporting purposes with low stakes of less than €20. Prizes may not comprise money or be refunded but may comprise non-refundable vouchers.
Decree 2021-1434 of 4 November 2021 revokes Article D. 322-3-1 of the Internal Security Code, which was created by Decree 2020-1773 of 21 December 2020. It removes the €150 value limit assigned to prizes offered to the public at traditional bingo games organised by associations in particular.
The criteria relating to the non-gambling organiser, the amount of the stake and the absence of monetary value of the prizes do not give rise to any particular difficulties and must be respected.
The concept of a restricted group is clarified by legal theory and case law
Traditional bingo games are allowed on the condition that they are organised within a "restricted group".
Thus, the exception to the prohibition of gambling will not be allowed if it appears, through a certain number of elements, that the group was not "restricted". The notion of a restricted group is not defined by law but has been clarified by legal theory and case law.
The Court of Cassation, in a Priority Question of Constitutionality, recently decided on this concept, and determined that this criterion “the details of which are outlined in case law, is straightforward and allows the people involved in the case to understand which lottery activities are prohibited and the judge to do their job without being accused of making an arbitrary decision”.
A ministerial response from 5 April 2005 stated that a restricted group is “a group of individuals who share the same pursuits or interests, usually from non-profit organisations, to provide money for the upkeep of the association/ organisation which is critical for the life of rural areas.”
Other rules to consider when organising a bingo game in France
Bingo regulations concern, for example, advertising for traditional bingo games, which is not in itself prohibited. This is the case as long as the bingo organiser's goal isn't purely for profit.
An organisation does not appear to be required to limit bingo participation to its members only. However, the number of participants must not be too large either, which could indicate a purely commercial purpose for the organisation of bingo.
It appears that judges have not yet had to give a ruling on the legality of bingo games run remotely. Nevertheless, it is advisable to be cautious and apply the same rules for remote bingo games that are in place for the traditional ones held in person, unless the law states otherwise.
Courts look at the structure of traditional bingo games on an individual basis to determine if there is commercial intent from the organisers.
Organising a bingo event in France must be to fund a "morally legitimate" cause
The purpose of organising bingo games must serve as a way to raise funds for a "morally legitimate" cause. Although there is no limit to the maximum number of bingo games that can be organised, their repetitive nature must not make them an economic activity in their own right.
The organisation's director wishing to organise bingo must take great care to ensure that they remain within the framework of an occasional non-profit-making activity, under the conditions specified by case law.
How does the case law distinguish a non-profit activity from a commercial activity? Add the complete legal audit on the regulations carried out by our law firm to your basket to find out more on this subject.
The provision of bingo entertainment in France may be allowed for a commercial business
The organisation of bingo games by private service providers does not seem to be illegal in itself. Nonetheless, judges are focused on looking at whether it is a “turnkey or ready to use” bingo business as it is more likely to be a commercial activity than just a simple entertainment service.
According to case law, "turnkey" solutions organised by private service providers are most often qualified as illegal activities where the full organisation of the game suggests the goal of making a profit.
Doctrine and case law provide more information on the circumstances in which the organisation of bingo by a private service provider can be considered illegal.
While "turnkey” bingo solutions are generally considered to be unlawful, it is not as clear whether a service provider can offer bingo entertainment as a single service.
Judges have been more flexible in their treatment of traditional bingo organisers, allowing them to consider it a lawful business activity. The organisation that orders the bingo service must nevertheless remain the sole organiser of the game. However, this is an isolated solution that must be interpreted with caution. Both the facilitator and the organisation setting up the bingo game must, therefore, analyse the business intentions on a case-by-case basis.
What are the legal differences between the status of a bingo organiser and a bingo host in France?
In any instance where service providers are asked by organisations to coordinate bingo games, it's advisable to define the relationship between them in a contract so that the obligations of each party are understood.
Non-compliance with bingo regulations in France and the law and the risks involved
Violation of the prohibition on organising games of money and chance or failure to comply with the conditions for authorisation to operate is punishable by 3 years imprisonment and a fine of €90,000. These penalties are increased to 7 years imprisonment and a fine of EUR 200,000 when the offence is committed by an organised group or gang.
Issuing, distributing, or assisting in the issuance or distribution of prohibited gambling materials is punishable by a fine of EUR 100,000. The court may increase the amount of the fine to four times the amount of the advertising expenditure devoted to the illegal operation. In addition, supplementary penalties may be imposed.
The organisation of traditional bingo games may be subject to interpretation
Beware... Certain criteria of the law allowing the organisation of traditional bingo games may be subject to interpretation. In particular, the notion of a restricted group and the purpose sought by the organisation/ associations.
Case law and doctrine give a more precise idea of how these criteria are interpreted by French institutions. Some recommendations for bingo organisers can also be formulated, based on precedent, so that they can limit as much as possible the risk of their activity being qualified as illegal (although judges examine the conditions in which bingo games are organised on a case-by-case basis).
Consult the following websites for more information:
This article on bingo regulations is written for information. The regulations related to bingo for organisations and fundraising events differ from one country to another, we advise you to contact the pertinent authorities responsible for this field to be aware of the statute in that country.