The lack of an international regulatory body for bingo has allowed numerous associations to sprout up around the world, at best only loosely affiliated with one another through informal ties. It has also allowed commercial operators to put themselves forward as advisory or governing authorities without any official sanction, thus confusing players and, in some cases, causing conflicts within the industry.
For example, a Professional Bingo Players Association (PBPA) was formed in 1984 by a group of investors in Ohio, ostensibly to represent players and the game. Through advertising and direct solicitation, they gradually enrolled some 2,400 members who were charged a $25 fee in return for a membership card, tote bag, bumper sticker, key ring, newsletter and a booklet describing the rules of the game.
At one point, law enforcement officers investigating illegal bookmaking operations discovered the group was running “a complicated scheme to skirt state bingo laws.” They were allegedly operating private high stakes games by using a toll free number to register players and accepting advance reservations by check. The Ohio Attorney General’s office became involved, and although no formal charges were filed, by June 1991 no trace of the PBPA remained other than key rings being sold at auction.
The ease with which the word “association” may be appended to any group makes it very difficult to separate legitimate representative organisations from private clubs and potential scams. The Doha Bingo Players Association, for one, is simply “a group of professionals who play competitive bingo at the Doha Rugby Clubrooms the last Monday of every month.”
On the other hand, the BingoPlayersAssociation.com purports to be “a big bingo community.” In truth, it is nothing more than a commercial web site seeking to earn affiliate commissions by directing players to its sponsors’ bingo rooms as part of the Bingo Portal Network. Similarly, the so-called “International Bingo Association” at ibabingo.com is merely a commercial provider of bingo software products.
In 1998, the British Bingo Operators’ Association and the Bingo Association of Great Britain merged to form the Bingo Association and represent the industry properly. Today it is the only true trade body for land-based licensed bingo operators in Great Britain, “a membership-based organisation that represents the interests of members to third parties, including government and regulators.”
Meanwhile, the National Bingo Association (NBA) located in Bedfordshire, England has run “The National Bingo Game” since 1986. It links approximately 300 clubs across the country to provide "big money`" games of bingo, offering players in participating clubs life-enhancing cash prizes, twice a day, seven days a week. In conjunction with the Bingo Association as its sister organisation, NBA has provided charitable support for Breakthrough Breast Cancer on an annual basis since 2003.
For online bingo, one of the foremost representatives is the Bingo Players Union. Supported by donations and run by volunteers, its purpose is to create and maintain “a neutral environment for site owners and managers, players, members and guests to share experiences and information regarding all aspects of the online bingo industry.” It serves as a watchdog, identifying unscrupulous sites while promoting cooperation, unity, fairness, resolution and quality assurance for everyone involved.
In 2006, an attempt was made to better serve the bingo industry by establishing the Europe Federation of European Bingo Associations, which is today better known as EUBINGO. Organised under the auspices of the European Parliament in Brussels, this body’s primary aim is “to represent the interests of its members at EU level and to inform members of developments.”
Initially, EUBINGO was made up of just two members—the U.K.’s Bingo Association and the Spanish Confederation of Organisations of Bingo Games Managers (Confederacion Espanola de Organizaciones de Empresarios del Juego del Bingo). Joining later were the Star Bingo Group of Ireland and Federbingo, which is the trade association representing the licensed bingo industry in Italy. It is still not the central authority the world needs, but it could someday form the core for a truly global bingo association in the years to come.