Do Bingo Parlors Make Money?

By Brian Hill

Bingo parlor equipment includes balls and blower.
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Bingo parlors are licensed by most states as a legal way to gamble while raising money for charity. In states that have legalized gambling or on Native American reservation land, the bingo parlor is part of the casino. The parlor management provides the facility, cards, staffing and prizes, and deducts these expenses from the money made from the players. The remainder is passed on to the sponsoring charity. A bingo parlor is a business, and like any business, some make money and some don't.

How the Game Is Played

The player pays for each bingo card at each session. Bingo is played by marking the bingo square on the card when the letter and number are announced. There is little skill involved other than being able to listen. Some players increase their odds by playing more than one card during a bingo session. When a player gets a straight line filled with marked squares, she has won and yells bingo. The first person to yell bingo wins, even if more than one player has a bingo. The line may be horizontal, vertical or diagonal. Other bingo games include four corners, blackout and picture frame. Prizes or cash are awarded to the winners.

Attendance Is a Critical Factor

The more players at any one session, the more money is paid to the bingo parlor. For example, if 50 cards are played and each card costs the player $5, that session raises $250. A well-located hall in a city that has a good-sized population of bingo players will do better than a hall that is difficult to get to. According to an article in "The American Statesmen," based in Texas, some cities are better for bingo than others.

Parlor Expenses

Rent charges by the facility management to the charity may be limited by the state, as are payouts. However, other expenses are not and are charged to the sponsoring charity. The expenses include salary for the bingo hall management and wages for the staff, cards and markers, the bingo balls and blower and a scoreboard which shows what numbers have been called so far. Some halls have electronic equipment that allows the players to mark the designated letter and number on more than one card simultaneously. The equipment is a considerable expense but is attractive to a player because she doesn't have to look at the cards to mark them. However, she does have to know when she has a bingo. The equipment doesn't tell her that.

Other Revenue Streams

Bingo parlors may earn additional revenue through offering food and beverages. If the parlor doesn't want to provide the food directly, it can bring in an outside vendor on a consignment basis. The vendor either pays rent or a percentage of the food and beverage revenue. Sales of other items such as T-shirts, caps, mugs and glasses bring in revenue.

Loss Leader

A casino may use the bingo parlor on its premises as a loss leader to bring in those who wouldn't normally play the other games, such as slots or blackjack. Once inside the casino, the bingo player may branch out. Another reason may be to attract the spouse of a gambler, since bingo is based on luck rather than skill and is not intimidating to play. The spouse who likes to gamble goes off to the blackjack table while the other spouse is entertained at the bingo parlor.