Georgia Bingo and Charitable Gaming

Besides the Georgia Lottery, charitable gaming essentially comprises the only other form of legal gambling in Georgia. The state allows both bingo and raffles. There are a couple of small poker rooms that also operate according to charitable gaming laws in the state. 

Bingo in particular is especially popular in Georgia. Nonprofit organizations can conduct bingo games for limited stakes in order to help fund their operations. 

Here’s a rundown of how charitable gaming works in Georgia, including specific information about Georgia bingo halls and answers to other questions about these legal gambling options in the state.

Is bingo legal in Georgia?

Yes, bingo is legal in Georgia. While the state prohibits most other forms of gambling, Georgia Code 16.12.50-62 authorizes nonprofit bingo games from qualifying organizations. Chapter 92-2 of the Rules and Regulations of the State of Georgia additionally outlines the parameters by which such bingo games can operate.

In fact, there are a couple of types of bingo that Georgia allows:

  • Recreational bingo
  • Non-recreational bingo

Recreational bingo refers to games in which there is no charge for participants to play. These games are legal as long as the prizes for the games are non-cash prizes valued at $15 or less. Organizations hosting such recreational bingo games need not obtain a license to do so.

Georgia bingo laws also allow senior citizens to play bingo for small cash prizes not exceeding $5. Nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations — including nursing homes, senior centers and hospitals — can host these games. The state considers these to be recreational bingo games as well, and thus they do not require licenses. 

By contrast, non-recreational bingo requires participants to pay fees to play. Games can offer prizes worth more than $15. Nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations that obtain a bingo license can offer such games according to the rules that the state sets forth.

What Georgia organizations are allowed to host bingo games?

Georgia law allows nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations to operate bingo halls offering non-recreational bingo. These can include churches, schools, civic groups and other organizations supporting specific groups in the community.

The organizations must apply for bingo licenses that need renewal each year. These licenses require a $100 annual fee, and any organization that fails to abide by the rules for the games risks losing its license. 

How much can a person win playing bingo in Georgia?

As noted above, recreational bingo games have very low limits on the value of prizes players can win. Non-recreational bingo games can offer larger prizes, although the bingo halls still must adhere to certain restrictions limiting the amount of money that people can win. 

According to the Rules and Regulations of the State of Georgia, it is unlawful for licensees “to award prizes in excess of $1,500 in cash or gifts of equivalent value during any calendar day or $3,000 in cash or gifts of equivalent value during any calendar week.” 

Such limits guarantee that the prizes in single bingo games will remain somewhat limited. Truth be told, most who enjoy bingo in Georgia are not looking to earn big paydays, but rather enjoy the social atmosphere and community.

Where can you play bingo in Georgia?

There are currently 137 active bingo licensees in Georgia. All have licenses to operate non-recreational bingo games and conduct their games according to the state’s legal guidelines for bingo.

As the law stipulates, all of the organizations operating bingo halls in Georgia are nonprofit, tax-exempt entities. All have also obtained a bingo license from the state. The games provide significant funding to help these organizations continue to provide services to their members and those whom they help. 

Here are some of the organizations that run many of the bingo halls:

  • American Legion 
  • Moose & Elks
  • Rotary Club
  • Knights of Columbus
  • Fraternal Orders
  • Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)
  • Kiwanis

Most Georgia bingo halls are open only a few days a week and for a limited number of hours. That’s a result of the law, actually, which limits bingo licensees from having more than one bingo session per day and also from having that session last more than five hours. 

Is online bingo legal in Georgia?

No, online bingo is illegal in Georgia. In fact, no form of real money online gambling is legal in the state. 

Social and sweepstakes sites with bingo

Georgians do have one option, however, when it comes to playing bingo online or other casino games. The state allows social and sweepstakes casino sites that use virtual currencies, with some of these sites even offering the chance to win real cash prizes.

Most of these sites focus primarily on slots or other casino table games. However, one sweepstakes site, Chumba Casino, does feature a bingo game called Flambingo. The game is a standard 75-ball bingo game similar to what you’ll likely find in Georgia bingo halls. Players receive 5×5 square cards with the letters B-I-N-G-O appearing along the top of the square. The five columns then each list five numbers (except the middle column, which lists four) from the following ranges:

  • B — 1 to 15
  • I — 16 to 30
  • N — 31 to 45 
  • G — 46 to 60
  • O — 61 to 75

The center space is a free space. The game begins with numbers being called, and a player matching five numbers in a horizontal, vertical or diagonal line wins the game. In Flambingo, you can also win by matching the four corner spots

Other types of legal charitable gaming in Georgia

Georgia also allows other types of charitable gaming, although again with certain restrictions. 

Charity raffles

Just like with bingo, nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations can also offer raffles in order to raise funds. Georgia Code outlines what the law allows with regard to such raffles. 

As noted, those wishing to conduct legal non-recreational bingo games have to apply for and receive a license to do so. Those wanting to host charity raffles also must apply for and receive a license. However, whereas for bingo the organization is licensed by the state of Georgia, for raffles it is the local county sheriff that grants the license. 

There is a standard license for organizations conducting four or more raffles per year. Those applying for that license also must pay a $100 application fee. There is also a special limited raffle license if the organization is conducting three raffles or fewer during the year that requires no application fee. Other application requirements vary by county, although in every case the organization must be a nonprofit and have tax-exempt status in Georgia. 

Meanwhile, for raffles where participants can join for less than $100 and the prizes add up to less than $100, no license is necessary.

While the law does not specify a maximum limit on prizes, individual counties may impose such limits. The law does note, however, that licensees must keep records dating back three years of anyone winning $50 or more in their raffles. Organizers must keep track of other records related to their raffles as well, including all receipts, details of expenses and information about who receives the proceeds

Charity poker rooms

At present nonprofit organizations operate two poker rooms that also define themselves as examples of legal, charitable gaming. Like organizations conducting raffles, these rooms have obtained their licenses via a county sheriff’s office.

For several years, the Little Kings and Queens charity poker room has operated in Buford, just north of Atlanta. More recently, in late 2021, a second charity poker room, the Poker Bar & Grill, opened in Duluth. Both are in Gwinnett County, and both rooms conduct poker tournaments and other events to raise money to donate to various charities.

Georgia law otherwise prohibits nonprofit organizations from conducting poker tournaments or so-called “casino nights” in order to raise funds.  

Georgia charitable gaming FAQ

When did charitable gaming first become legal in Georgia?

In 1976, Georgia amended the state constitution to allow charity bingo and raffles after voters approved doing so by a margin of 58% to 42%. A year later, state legislators passed an additional law charging the Georgia Department of Revenue with regulating charitable gaming. In 1980, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation became the regulatory body.

Who regulates bingo games in Georgia today?

Following a 2021 vote by the Georgia General Assembly, regulation of bingo games in Georgia is the responsibility of the Secretary of State’s Office.

What is the minimum age to participate in charitable gaming in Georgia?

The rules regarding both charitable bingo and raffles set the minimum age at 18. The two charity poker rooms both set the minimum age at 21.

Are coin-operated amusement machines another example of charitable gaming in Georgia?

No, businesses operate the popular coin-operated amusement machines for profit under licenses from the Georgia Lottery. During a recent fiscal year, Georgians spent more than $3 billion a year playing the machines, winning approximately $2.1 billion worth of prizes doing so. That meant about $900 million in net revenue went to the COAM license holders and retailers, minus 10% that went to the state.

Is it true that bingo first got its name in the US in Atlanta?

Not really, although Atlanta does usually figure into the early history of bingo in America. Bingo-like games first appeared in Europe, only appearing in the US early in the 20th century. During the early 1920s, bingo turned up in the Pittsburgh area, where Hugh J. Ward is credited with having introduced the modern version of the game. In 1929, a toymaker named Edwin Lowe reportedly encountered people at a traveling carnival playing a game called “Beano” that essentially used the same rules as Ward’s game in Pittsburgh and used dried beans to mark numbers. According to Lowe, he heard (or perhaps misheard) an excited winner call out “Bingo” instead of “Beano.” In any case, Lowe went on to produce his own Bingo game that became a great seller. 
Whether “Bingo” actually got its name in Atlanta is doubtful since the word had appeared before in different locations. In any case, Georgia still usually makes a cameo in stories of bingo’s origins thanks to Edwin Lowe and the story of the game played at that carnival in Atlanta.