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Charitable Gaming

Best Practices

Bingo & Raffle Games

Bingo and Raffle games can only be offered by qualified charitable organizations as defined in Idaho Code. All qualified charitable organizations conducting bingos or raffles, regardless of game size, must adhere to Idaho Code and Rules.

Read and Fully Understand the Idaho Code and Administrative Rules

Make sure the organization reads and fully understands the Idaho Code and Administrative Rules listed on the Idaho Law web page. Check with Idaho Lottery employees if you have questions about any of the laws before you begin.


  • Visit other bingo halls and learn about ALL of the games

      Contact other local bingo halls and ask to tour their establishment. Ask questions such as: how they operate, how they complete their accounting, how much they charge per game, and an estimate of their gross annually. Remember that theirs is an established game and you probably will not gross as much your first few years, so expect and plan on a lower annual gross until you are an established game. It's important to gain as much knowledge regarding bingo before your organization invests in equipment and time.

  • Cost of Bingo Equipment

      Call licensed vendors listed on the web listed under "Licensed Vendors", and ask for quotes on bingo equipment. Contact all the vendors and compare new machines vs. used machines. Occasionally vendors will have used equipment that may work for your bingo game at a significantly lower cost to the organization.

      When pricing equipment, keep in mind that you will have to pay for the equipment out of the bingo proceeds and this falls under bingo expenses. Since the machines are a large expenditure upfront, you can ask for payment options through the vendors, or agree on a payment plan to pay the equipment back to your organization. Contact the Idaho Lottery for further information.

  • Equipment Needed

      Bingo blower or bingo console
      This is the main machine which tumbles the balls and controls all of the mechanical equipment.

      A flashboard
      This is a lighted board which displays the patterns you are looking for, as well as the balls called.

      75 bingo balls certified from a vendor
      Make sure these balls are always clean and dent free. Always store these balls in a safe place and inspect for any missing or damaged balls before each session begins. Most halls have at least two sets of balls to ensure a fair game.

      TV monitor and camera
      Install a camera and TV monitor to show the balls that are pulled from the bingo blower. This clearly shows the players that there is no tampering and that you offer a reputable game. All equipment must be purchased from a vendor licensed in the state of Idaho.

      Please see the list of licensed vendors.

  • Make a Business Plan

      Run bingo as if you were running a regular business. Make a business plan and address the following:

      Bingo Equipment
      Cost of equipment and the period of repayment

      How many employees will you need?

      -Most organizations have at least one cashier, one caller, and one floor worker. If you have a larger game, plan on recruiting more help.

      -Are they volunteers or are they paid workers? If you plan on paying these workers, remember that you are only allowed up to 18% in expenses for the whole year, which includes employees. Most organizations gather as many volunteers as they can to reduce costs.

      -Make sure all employees are very well trained and passionate about raising money for your organization. Customer service is essential.

      Price of Packets and Games
      How much will you charge for games, and how many games do you plan on playing each session? Keep in mind that your payout is determined by the cost of each pack. Check in your area for the appropriate rate. Also remember that the more players you have, the higher the payouts. Encourage players to bring family and friends.

      Estimate Annual Gross
      Set a goal for the number of players you would like to attract per session. Assume that each person will buy at least one full pack, and calculate an annual gross based on these numbers. Estimate the number of players low in the beginning to get a conservative annual gross. This will give you an estimate of how much you have for expenses and donation before you begin playing. Make sure you can meet the required percentages based on your calculated gross.

      Payout Percentage
      Set a percentage for payout. As an organization just beginning, try to keep this number conservative to allow for mistakes or a slow market. Most organizations will start with about a 55-60% payout to allow for expenses and the minimum 20% charitable donation requirement.

      Where are you going to hold your games? Do you have to rent a building, or are you using your organization's building? Paying rent is a huge cost to a new bingo hall. If your organization has a building, holding the games in this building could save a great deal of money. If you must rent, make sure to calculate your rent, deposit, and all applicable utility costs into your bingo expenses.

      Cost of Bingo Paper
      Check the vendor list and decide who you will buy your bingo paper from. After you receive a price quote, estimate how much paper you will need based on the number of players you expect to attend.

      Office Equipment
      Do you have all of the necessary office equipment such as: cash register, safe to secure money, a place to keep and lock up your paper, computer, printer, and other various office equipment.

      Number of Sessions
      You can hold up to three 8 hour sessions per week. Determine how many nights per week you would like to hold sessions based on the availability of your venue, volunteers/employees, and player participation.

  • House Rules

      Of course all Idaho Code and Rules must apply to all bingo halls; however there are a few areas where an organization could include a few of their own rules. Visibly post house rules and/or print them on the back of your game sheets. Set policies for your players to establish things such as:

      -You must call "Bingo" on the last number called.
      -If you have a Bingo it is your responsibility to be heard and seen.
      -No one is allowed on the bingo floor if they are not playing bingo.
      -A number is officially called when any sounding of the row or number is announced.

      These are just some examples of house rules. Visit other bingo halls for ideas of house rules you may want to set for your organizations.

  • Advertise

      Advertise your game and attract players. There are a number of options:

      -word of mouth
      -collect player information and offer specials
      - offer frequent player cards or free games for people who bring a new player
      - create a Facebook page
      - post signs in town
      - join forces with local businesses
      - hang flyers
      -advertise in local newspapers or bingo bugle

  • Good Customer Service

      Greet your players, learn their names and get to know them, and make them feel welcome. Be honest and upfront with all players and run an honest game. Make bingo fun!

      Hire or find friendly and knowledgeable volunteers. Have training sessions to ensure all workers understand their responsibilities and your expectations.

      Try to find enough help that your volunteers or employees don't suffer from bingo burnout.

  • Cash Handling and Documentation

      Make sure you have a clear nightly log that shows all the information required by the Idaho Code and Administrative Rules.

      You can find examples of a nightly log located on the web page under "Forms".
      Make a general ledger that shows number of players, total gross, and total payout per session. Also record all donations on this sheet along with all bingo related expenses.

      Keep up on your paperwork and have someone check your numbers. This will make completing the annual report easy and allow you to easily track your percentages to ensure you are adhering to the Idaho Code requirements.


  • Make a good spreadsheet

      Make a spreadsheet to track ticket sales. Often organizations don’t track ticket sales accurately and can’t reconcile tickets sold with the gross total raised. Making a clear spreadsheet and assigning ticket numbers to volunteers will help ensure that all money is recorded and deposited. This will also ensure that all tickets are entered into the drawing.

  • Raffle Ticket Pricing

      For tracking purposes, it is best to assign one consistent price for all tickets. If you would like to set different price points based on how many tickets are sold, you must have a tracking system in place to accurately track ticket sales. Some organizations offer raffle tickets on “discount” when bought in bulk. For example tickets may be sold for $1 apiece or 6 for $5; an arm's length of tickets for $10; or some other incentive to buy more. In order to accurately track income from the sale of raffle tickets, all tickets and the price they were sold for must be tracked separately and must equal the gross income.

  • First Raffle

      Often it is best to start off with a smaller, less expensive, prize for your first raffle. Some organizations start with a high dollar item, then have a difficult time recouping the cost to purchase the prize. The raffle must be held as advertised even if you have not sold as many tickets as you had hoped. This results in a loss of revenue for the organization and may jeopardize future raffles. If you are going to start with a large raffle prize, make sure you have many dedicated volunteers to help sell tickets.

  • Using a credit card as payment

      If you plan on accepting a credit card as a payment for a raffle ticket, keep in mind that you will have to record the credit card transaction fee as a raffle expense. These transactions are to be processed in person and will be counted as part of the 20% allowed expenses by Idaho Code. Going over on expenses may lead to the loss of your charitable gaming license.

  • Create a policy for conducting raffles

      Each organization should create a policy for conducting raffles. Often organizations consist of volunteers and may change from year to year so having a clear policy in place will help new volunteers. Since many charitable organizations have high turnover, information is often lost and can negatively affect your ability to hold a raffle in the future. Have a system in place where records will be kept and easily accessible along with clear procedures.

  • Create Raffle Rules

      Most organizations will create rules regarding the raffle it will conduct. Look at other organization’s raffle rules to help with ideas. You will need to think about things that may affect the raffle winner, such as, who will pay taxes, age requirements, and how the winner will acquire the prize. It is a good idea to have a lawyer assist you in making rules if you are raffling off large items such as a car or a house.

Please note that the above documentation includes suggestions intended to assist charitable organizations work within the confines of Idaho Code and Administrative Rule. Wherever applicable, compliance with Idaho Code and Administrative Rule supersedes any information provided on these pages.

If you have questions about this content, email tmiller@lottery.idaho.gov
Tina Miller, Charitable Gaming Coordinator
Idaho Lottery Enforcement Division - (208) 334-2277