Mailing Date: December 9, 2011
RE: Bar Bingo Rules
Dear Mr. Lesinski:
ISSUE: This office is in receipt of your e-mail dated November 23, 2011, wherein you indicate you were recently having a discussion with an officer of your club concerning the laws governing sales of alcohol during “bar bingo” games. You state that the club officer believes that alcohol cannot be served to anyone playing bingo at a bar; however, you believe otherwise. You note that you have read the Pennsylvania Bingo Law and that you cannot find any mention of alcohol sales. You also indicate that you are aware that no event that involves the consumption of alcoholic beverages or awarding of alcohol as a prize is permitted. However, you take this to mean that “chug-a-lug” or “beer pong” contests are prohibited, but not the consumption of alcohol while playing bingo. You state that you are applying for a bingo license for your club so that the club can conduct charitable bingo events to raise money.
OPINION: Section 5.32(e) of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board’s (“Board”) Regulations permits retail licensees, including clubs, to hold, or permit to be held, on their licensed premises an event, tournament or contest, but only under certain conditions. [40 Pa. Code § 5.32(e)]. Events, tournaments and contests are defined as “a competitive endeavor involving skill, speed, strength or endurance. The term includes a competitive endeavor involving physical attributes of contestants.” [40 Pa. Code § 5.30]. Events, tournaments and contests on retail licensed premises are subject to the following rules: there may be no unlawful gambling directly or indirectly associated with the event, tournament or contest; there may be no consumption of alcohol by participants as part of the event, tournament or contest; the price of admission may not include a charge for or entitle the participant to receive an alcoholic beverage; the value of all prizes awarded may not exceed five hundred dollars ($500.00) and the total value of all prizes awarded in a seven (7)-day period may not exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000.00). Finally, licensees must maintain records of the prizes and winners on the licensed premises for two (2) years following the event, tournament or contest. [40 Pa. Code § 5.32(e)].
While this rule prohibits the consumption of alcoholic beverages as part of an event, tournament or contest, it does not prohibit the incidental consumption of alcohol while a patron participates in an event, tournament or contest. As you correctly note, this rule was designed to prohibit drinking games or contests that specifically require the consumption alcoholic beverages as an objective of the game. Therefore, assuming that drinking is not a component of the bingo game being played, patrons would be permitted to consume alcohol while playing.
Please note that the Board does not regulate either the Local Option Small Games of Chance Act [10 P. S. §§ 311 – 327] or the Bingo Law [10 P.S. §§ 301-308.1], and as such, the interpretation of these statutes falls outside of the scope of authority of the Board. Therefore, it is recommended that you contact your County Treasurer’s Office, which normally handles the applications locally, and/or the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, Miscellaneous Tax Division, at (717) 787-8275 with any questions or concerns about small games of chance and bingo. For your information, the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue also publishes a “Small Games of Chance” primer that may be helpful to you. This primer can be obtained through the Department of Revenue’s website located at www.revenue.state.pa.us, by using the search term “primer.”
THIS OPINION APPLIES ONLY TO THE FACTUAL SITUATION DESCRIBED HEREIN AND DOES NOT INSULATE THE LICENSEE OR OTHERS FROM CONSEQUENCES OF CONDUCT OCCURRING PRIOR TO ITS ISSUANCE. THE PROPRIETY OF THE PROPOSED CONDUCT HAS BEEN ADDRESSED ONLY UNDER THE LIQUOR CODE AND REGULATIONS. THE LAWS AND POLICIES ON WHICH THIS OPINION IS BASED ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE BY THE LEGISLATURE OR THE PENNSYLVANIA LIQUOR CONTROL BOARD.
Very truly yours,
FAITH S. DIEHL
cc: Pennsylvania State Police,
Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement
Jerry W. Waters, Director of Office of Regulatory Affairs
Tisha Albert, Director, Bureau of Licensing
LCB Advisory Opinion No. 11-516