Bingo is one of the most well-known and widely played games in the United States thanks to its presence at bingo halls, community events, fundraisers, churches, bars and casinos.
Despite the game’s widespread popularity, the rules, regulations and availability of bingo (and online bingo) games vary between states depending on gambling laws and whether they classify bingo as gambling or a charitable game.
In New York, bingo is legal and has been played at various venues statewide since the game’s inception.
Although bingo halls may be a familiar fixture in the state, online bingo games are not legal in New York yet. Unlike NY’s neighboring state, New Jersey hosts online bingo games at regulated online gambling sites.
Bingo is often associated with senior citizens enthusiastically stamping their game cards at bingo halls; however, online bingo is changing the face of the game by opening it up to the younger and more tech-savvy players.
Download these online casino apps in NY and play in NJ
Bingo history in the US
In the 1930s, Edwin Lowe, a toy salesman from Brooklyn, popularized the bingo version that we play today.
Lowe was intrigued by a “Beano” game that he saw being played at a fair in Georgia where dried beans were used to mark numbers on game cards. “Beano” followed the rules developed and copyrighted by Hugh Ward for a Pennsylvania carnival game.
Lowe brought the game concept back to New York, where he initially shared it with friends. Allegedly, one of his friends yelled, “bingo!” in excitement when she won. The term “bingo” caught on, and Lowe used it as the name of his game.
Lowe developed 24 bingo game cards and later hired a mathematician to create 6,000 unique bingo game cards. Lowe brought his game to the market, and by the 1940s, bingo had become popular throughout the US.
The bingo cards Lowe developed used a 5×5 number layout for a 75-ball game, which is still the standard in US bingo halls. The numbers are drawn randomly from a tumbler and called out by an announcer.
Players mark the numbers on their bingo cards with a dauber pen, and the first person to score a win on a card yells “bingo.” The winner claims the prize after their winning card is verified.
Bingo halls: land-based bingo games
Bingo halls tend to be social, except during an active bingo game.
During the calling of a bingo game, there is typically little chatting because players need to focus on marking their game cards.
If a player fails to mark a called number, fails to announce a winning bingo card, another player can call a bingo win first, which makes it crucial for players to pay attention and stay on top of their calls and cards when playing to win.
Bingo hall pros:
- There’s a live bingo caller.
- A unique atmosphere.
- It hosts community and social events.
- It’s a fundraising game for churches, schools and charities.
- Food and beverage service is available.
- Bingo is a family activity.
- Suitable for special promotions and events.
- There is a different game and room options (depending on the venue).
Bingo halls in New York state
New York boasts a strong tradition of bingo culture within the state’s diverse communities.
Bingo halls are throughout the Empire State, with the largest concentration in Western New York. Players can find bingo games at land-based casinos in Upstate New York, community bingo halls throughout the state, as well as various bars and restaurants.
Bingo at New York casinos
Several land-based casinos in New York operate world-class bingo halls.
Many casinos located on Indian reservation land were originally bingo halls that expanded into full-service casinos after the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) was passed in 1988. The IGRA gave Indian tribes official autonomy from state gaming regulations, allowing tribes to offer casino games in states where gambling was otherwise illegal or heavily regulated.
These Indian casinos include:
- Akwesasne Mohawk Casino: Akwesasne Mohawk Casino in Hogansburg, which is close to the Canadian border, features a bingo palace for up to 500 players. This bingo hall boasts the latest in bingo technology as well as a bingo calendar packed with special promotions and events including bingo after dark, mystery games and triple chance games.
- Turning Stone Casino Resort: Turning Stone Casino Resort in Verona, which is located just off of the Thruway between Syracuse and Utica, hosts a world-renowned bingo hall. Turning Stone’s website promotes Oneida Indian high-stakes bingo as “rated number three in the world.” Smoking and nonsmoking bingo rooms feature specialty games and promotions seven days a week, including half-price bingo games, glow-in-the-dark bingo, disco bingo and mystery bingo.
- Seneca casinos: In Western New York, the Seneca Casino group features bingo at the Irving and Salamanca locations. The Seneca bingo halls feature smoking and nonsmoking rooms with packed bingo schedules seven days a week, including various specialty games, matinee games and bingo after dark.
New York’s community bingo halls
Throughout the state, bingo games are hosted by organizations like:
- American Legion
- Elks Lodges
- Independent bingo halls
Many bingo halls – like Fifth Avenue Bingo Hall in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and the Schenectady Bingo Palace, in Schenectady, offer bingo games seven days a week.
Bingo at bars
Upscale bars like Standard Grill at the Standard, High Line, host bingo nights for the younger and hipper crowd. The Standard’s “Not Your Standard Bingo Night” event comes complete with DJs, wild partying and the occasional celebrity sighting.
Drag queen bingo nights are also on offer in Greenwich Village. At venues like the infamous Stonewall bar, drag queens host lively bingo games accompanied by entertainment and drink specials.
Bingo hall legislation in New York
In 2017, New York enacted legislation that banned minors younger than 18 from playing bingo. Although children, who are 18 and younger, can still be present at bingo halls, they cannot participate.
Before 2017, children of any age could play bingo when accompanied by an adult. The New York State Gaming Commission stated that the change was intended to establish a minimum age for bingo similar to other forms of gambling in the state.
Serious blowback followed this legislation; the bingo community viewed the state’s actions as preventing them from participating in safe family activities with their children.
Traditionally, elderly bingo players would bring their grandchildren to bingo halls, and they were upset that their grandchildren could no longer play with them.
Bingo halls were also concerned that business would be affected by the new restrictions.
In response to public pressure, state Sen. Timothy Kennedy introduced a bill in March 2019 that would again allow minors to play bingo if accompanied by an adult. The bill passed the state Senate successfully and is now moving to the state Assembly for consideration.
Online bingo operators and developers have tried to emulate the bingo hall experience as closely as possible.
The energy of a bingo hall with a live caller can be difficult to capture online when a random number generator (RNG) is choosing the balls, but online bingo can offer players other benefits, like automated gameplay.
Unlike at bingo halls, it is possible to chat during online bingo games because the software auto-dabs the cards and flags winning cards automatically. Players don’t miss out on winning numbers or bingo cards even if they are chatting or multitasking throughout the game.
Online bingo pros:
- The auto-dab and auto-win features.
- Community chat features.
- Side gameplay.
- Welcome bonuses and promotions.
- It is convenient gameplay from home or mobile.
- It offers bingo game variations, rooms and game card options.
- Lower bingo card prices compared to bingo halls.
- Bigger jackpots compared to bingo halls.
- Progressive jackpot options.
- Free online bingo games.
Social online bingo
NY online bingo players can take advantage of rich community chat functions on bingo sites.
Players engage and chat with other players using bingo lingo about their games and strategy as well as to offer encouragement. The online community and engagement aspects of online bingo help to keep players coming back for more.
Online bingo side games
In addition to chatting, thanks to the automated nature of online bingo games, players can multitask by playing side games like online slots, scratchers and mini-table games that are often available on bingo sites. Side games are entertaining and offer players additional chances at scoring wins.
Progressive online bingo
Similar to progressive online slot machine games, a small percentage from every progressive game bingo card purchase goes into a progressive jackpot prize pool.
Because online bingo sites can accommodate many more bingo players than traditional land-based bingo halls, jackpots can reach impressive sums.
Online bingo players
Online bingo statistics are difficult to find. However, similar to traditional bingo hall players, online bingo demographics skew heavily toward women.
Bingo enjoys a position as a soft gambling or charitable game, and its relaxed atmosphere and social features gear toward female players.
Online bingo is reaching younger and more tech-savvy players than traditional bingo hall games. The average age of online bingo players is notably lower, with a strong showing even among millennials.
Online bingo in New York
Online gambling, including online bingo, has not been legalized in New York yet. Daily fantasy sports is the only legal online betting option available in New York at this time.
Legislative attempts to legalize online poker and NY sports betting have failed repeatedly. Despite the prospect of including online sports betting in the 2019 fiscal budget to help offset the state’s budget deficit, this proposition was ultimately omitted in the final budget proposal.
Online bingo in New Jersey
Some New Yorkers don’t need to go far to play online bingo at legal, US-based online casinos.
Just over the border in New Jersey, several regulated online casinos offer 90 ball bingo games. The only caveat is that New Yorkers must physically be present in the Garden State to play online bingo at New Jersey’s online casinos.
The Virgin and Tropicana online casino sites both feature 90 ball bingo games complete with chat functions, community jackpots and free daily games.
The Pala bingo site in New Jersey also offers live 90 ball online bingo games on a set schedule.
90 ball online bingo
Instead of a standard 75-ball game with a 5×5 bingo card layout, 90 ball bingo features one strip of six tickets per game. Numbers are grouped together on three lines per ticket, and hitting all of the numbers on one line is a win. It is possible to win up to three times per ticket with a bingo win on one line, two lines or all three lines (a full house).
Online bingo in Pennsylvania
On New York’s southern border, Pennsylvania is rolling out the state’s first regulated online gambling sites in mid-2019.
However, none of the casino sites that offer bingo in New Jersey are currently planning to enter the Pennsylvania market. We have yet to see if any future online betting sites in Pennsylvania will provide online bingo games.