Can Playing Bingo In Northwest Florida Leave You With a Criminal Record?

Bingo and cards may seem like the perfect opportunities for relaxation, but they, unfortunately, hold several legal complications that can leave seemingly innocent participants dealing with criminal charges. If, however, the proper conditions are met, it’s possible to enjoy a variety of games without fear of breaking the law — even when money-based wagers are involved. Keep reading to learn how you can play bingo in Northwest Florida or your favorite games in peace:

When Is Gambling Illegal?

Florida courts clearly frown on gambling and most behaviors resembling gambling. Chapter 849 of the Florida Statutes clearly states that those who play games of chance in the interest of winning money are guilty of second-degree misdemeanors. Likewise, it is illegal to maintain a gambling house or other facility in which others are able to bet money.

These rules cover a variety of games in which money is commonly exchanged, including cards, keno, and even bingo. While it is possible to legally play these games and even add stakes, money cannot be exchanged — nor can items of notable monetary value.

The Exception: Penny-Ante Games

The restrictions outlined above may make it seem like all forms of gambling are out of the question, but a few exceptions apply. Most notably, it’s possible to play select penny-ante games, in which the winnings do not exceed $10 in any given round. This penny-ante approach is commonly applied to games such as poker, bridge, rummy, hearts, and canasta.

To play penny-ante games legally, participants must meet at a dwelling — defined by the Florida Statutes as a residential location owned or rented by one of the participants. This designation also applies to common areas in condominiums and apartment complexes, as well as college dormitories and even publicly-owned community centers. The person who hosts the game cannot charge others to participate.

Beyond penny-ante games, gambling is largely restricted to the state’s tribal casinos. However, bingo parlors are allowed to operate if sponsored by charitable organizations, assuming all proceeds are dedicated to said charities. Even these games can be risky, however, as lack of oversight has often made it difficult for players to truly ascertain whether their contributions are appropriately allocated.

The Future of Gambling in Florida

The United States Supreme Court recently made waves in the gambling industry with a decision that allows for legal sports betting. Florida has yet to take action based on this ruling, but gambling is otherwise quickly changing in the Sunshine State. Most notably, Florida voters passed Amendment 3, which grants residents the right to authorize and possibly expand casino gambling. Future changes could take some time to enact, however, so it is crucial that Floridians continue to demonstrate caution when playing favorite games outside of authorized casinos.

Many well-meaning Florida residents regularly break the state’s gambling laws without ever realizing that they’ve played their favorite games in an illegal manner. Unfortunately, a lack of understanding does not represent sufficient defense in the event of an arrest.


John F. Greene Destin Florida Attorney

No matter the nature of your current legal situation, you deserve a strong representation from a lawyer who cares. Attorney John Greene understands how easily Florida residents can fall into difficult situations involving criminal charges — but he also knows what it takes to resolve even the most complicated cases. Reach out today to learn more.

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