Starting a Bingo Hall Game: An Introduction

Cactus Bingo is here to help and we are keenly aware that our success is entirely dependent on your success in starting a bingo hall game!!

Cactus Bingo has been an active participant in the opening and start-up of numerous new bingo games, both charitable and casino style. Our staff can assist you with expert advice and recommendations from session days and start times and drill down to the design and pricing of your games, specials, jackpots, advertising and break even analysis. A thorough and strategic opening is critical to the success of any bingo operation. A successful bingo game is run like a business and takes a dedicated effort on the part of all key staff members. Today, the adage applies: “This ain’t your grandma’s bingo anymore” so failing to plan is no more than planning to fail!

The check list below is a detailed guide to better ensure a smooth and successful opening and on-going operation. It may be more than you need in a smaller community with little or no competition but is designed to guide any organization wanting to investigate opening a bingo game.


Starting a Bingo Hall Game Checklist


Contact your state or local governing authority for a copy of the bingo laws and regulations in your state or city. Laws are significantly different from state to state and in some instances city to city. Generally, only authorized organizations and typically 501C charitable organizations are permitted to conduct bingo. Many jurisdictions require the organization to have been in existence for a number of years to qualify. License fees are common and many times a tax is imposed on the proceeds derived from the conduct of bingo. Ask if there is an ADMINISTRATIVE CODE (detailed operating rules) in addition to state statutes.


ORGANIZATION OWNED FACILITY or will you rent? Rental fees will impact your profitability with an additional fixed expense.

LOCATION CHARACTERISTICS:  Is the Area Safe? What type of security will I need to provide? Is it near your organization and the volunteers that will be working the game?

PARKING: Is there adequate parking and is it well lit at night? Is the majority of parking adjacent to the building? Customers having to cross streets with heavy traffic and during inclement weather can be a big disadvantage. Is there street access to the entrance and exit of the parking lot?

SIZE REQUIREMENTS: Estimating the square footage requirements for your bingo is critical and will be based on your projected average attendance. This will be equally important for determining the quantity of tables and chairs, restroom needs, snack bar and quantity of supplies and storage space. Check out other games in the area and as a rule of thumb, approximately 1% of the population is active regular bingo players (excluding affluent areas which are less). This 1% is the maximum possible attendance and should not be used to determine your average but only as the maximum number of players available to draw from. Playing multiple sessions per week will likely reduce your average. Plan on an absolute minimum of 18 square feet per person in the actual seating area to conduct bingo. For a more comfortable arrangement, a minimum of 24’-32’ square feet is more appropriate allowing for larger aisles between tables, walls and the Caller’s stand. This does not include space for sales area, food service, restrooms, storage or private office areas.


CLEANLINESS & APPEARANCE: Janitorial service or independent?

VENTILATION / HEAT / AIR CONDITIONING: comfortable and functional?

RESTROOMS: City code requirements based on total occupancy? Easy access from seating area? Number of stalls to avoid long waits?

ENTRANCE/EXIT: Easy to locate

STORAGE SPACE: Adequate for all supplies

PA SYSTEM: existing or easily installed

LIGHTING: bright?

TABLES: Banquet style, 30” X 96” is ideal for 6 persons per table

CHAIRS: Padded stack chairs for comfort





SURVEY: Select someone in your organization to conduct a survey (actually play) of the games in your area. It would be beneficial to attempt to set an appointment with the manager and discuss your plans to open a bingo but do not be surprised if some managers are suspicious and protective of “their territory”. If you will not be playing on the same day or evening you may be able to cooperate in a way that is beneficial to both organizations. In this way, the manager may be much more willing to share ideas, pointers and pitfalls they have encountered. We will be more than happy to supply you with games in your immediate area if possible.

NAME of the Hall or organization visited, pick up a program or session guide



DISTANCE from your location


ATTENDANCE or “butts in the seats”

EARLY BIRD GAMES: How many? Pack used? Cost? Number of cards per sheet? Prize amounts?

REGULAR GAMES: Number of games in pack? Number of cards per sheet? Cost? Discounts? Prize amounts?

SPECIALS:  Type of game? How many? Number of cards per sheet? Cost?

JACKPOT GAME(s): How it is won? Number of cards per sheet? Cost? Prize offered and consolation prize if applicable?

LATE GAMES/NIGHT OWL GAMES: Repeat info above.

DISCOUNTS offered on other than Regular Games ie, buy 2 get 1 free?

FREE DRAWINGS: Prize type and estimated value



BINGO EQUIPMENT: desk style blower with electronic Flashboards? TV monitors: color or B&W, approx. size and quantity, verification of winning cards on TV’s, PA System? Size of stage?


HOUSE RULES prominently displayed?

BINGO ACCESSORIES sold including ink markers, tape, glue, bingo bags, bingo cushions and other novelty items.


TABLES & CHAIRS: This will be a significant expense if you don’t already have them or they are provided by the lessor/landlord. Renting can be an initial option to minimize risk. Ideally, 30” X 96” folding banquet tables (5/8”- 3/4” thick) are best whether they be the more economical laminated particle board or the more expensive and durable (and much lighter) laminated plywood. An economical alternative is the high impact plastic tables sold by many warehouse clubs, but expect some regular upkeep. Additionally, many of these plastic tables are only available in 6 foot lengths which will ultimately seat fewer people on average than 8 foot tables (4 seats per 6 ft versus 6 seats per 8 ft.). You will encounter 1 person attempting to use an entire side of a 6 ft. table frequently. 1” padded stack chairs (padded seat and back) are commonly used. Prices vary widely based on the grade or construction quality but tables can run anywhere from $50 to $150 each, more if customized such as hinged legs attached to the far end of the surface. Padded chairs are made of various grades of materials and range from $12 to $28 each. Commercial grades are better.

BINGO EQUIPMENT: Your Bingo machine and related equipment will be your next largest expense. Cactus Bingo has a very broad selection of equipment to choose from, both new and reconditioned. Prices vary significantly based on features and capabilities and will be unique to your specific locale. Key components include the bingo console(desk with blower and ball chamber), an extra set of balls, Flashboards (balls called display boards), common parts such as spare bulbs and fuses, a portable CCTV camera and related cables, connectors, a modulator and amplifiers and TV monitors. Trained technicians will discuss multiple options with you and base our recommendations on your budget and a site visit.

PERIPHERAL EQUIPMENT: A public address system is usually necessary depending on the size of your facility. Cash registers or cash drawer are additional considerations.

BINGO SUPPLIES: Cactus will gladly assist with games played, session formatting, projections and establish a reasonable minimum starting inventory level of paper packs, specials, pull tabs/event games and ink markers for your operation. Other common items include bingo change aprons, drawing tickets and novelty items. Initial supplies will typically last for 3-4 bingo sessions. A secure area will be needed for all supplies whether a locking cabinet, closet or private office. Supplies should be treated just like cash.

MISCELLANEOUS SUPPLIES: You will also need ordinary office supplies such as adding machine(s), pens/pencils, staplers, paper clips, post-it notes, trash cans & liners, multi outlet power strips, and janitorial & restroom supplies. Bingo programs will need to be printed or copied.

BANK ACCOUNTS & CASH: You’ll need to budget for these as well although technically not equipment or supplies. Most regulatory authorities require a dedicated Bingo checking account. Some prizes may be required to be paid by check. All “allowed” expenses will be paid from this account. You will need cash on hand for starting banks for the cashiers and floor clerks (sellers). You will also need enough cash on hand to cover the majority of all cash prizes offered for the entire session of bingo.


Many states require that the bingo can be operated and staffed with ONLY members of the authorized organization which is qualified to conduct bingo and no such member can receive a profit, wage or salary. Other states allow nominal wages or a fixed amount per occasion. Regardless, staffing is essentially the same for most operations and multiple duties can easily be assumed by one member. Common positions are detailed and follow.

A BINGO COMMITTEE is typically formed from any combination of the positions listed below as well as other key members of the organization that may or may not participate in the operation of the bingo game.

MANAGER OR CHAIRMAN that assumes overall responsibility for the operation of the game and can fill any position in the bingo if needed. Commonly orders all supplies.

TREASURER that is responsible for all required cash management, tracking, reporting and check issues.

CALLERS that operate the bingo equipment and announce the balls/numbers and “verify” the winning cards are valid winners.

CASHIERS that sell admission packs and other items directly to the public.

FLOOR CLERKS/verifiers that continually roam the bingo floor selling paper sheets, tabs or event games. Additionally, it is their responsibility to inspect a winner’s bingo card and announce the card number or numbers marked on the card to the caller for verification.

OTHER POSITIONS may be applicable such as JANITORIAL or MAINTENANCE personnel for set-up or tear- down and SECURITY whether inside or outside the facility.


BINGO PUBLICATIONS such as the “Bingo Bugle” and other independently operated bingo advertising newspapers or booklets are available in most metropolitan areas. Many contain sections for rural communities as well. They are distributed monthly to bingo games and other sites and are full of articles and advertisements specifically for bingo.

LOCAL NEWSPAPERS may print announcements for your new game.

OTHER GAMES may cooperate and make announcements pertaining to your game, particularly if you reciprocate.


Opening a bingo game professionally and strategically requires a considerable amount of time and effort. Managing a game on an on-going basis will require the same but remember that you are truly operating a business and should treat it as such. Bingo can be a rewarding and profitable experience when done properly.

Cactus can assist you through this process and we have done this many times. We have multiple key employees with 20+ years of experience that are ready to help. We’ll be there throughout the planning process, practice sessions and even opening night when possible. We can make a difference!