Why Do Slot Machines Have Bingo Cards?

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Bingo card on Buffalo Extreme

If you find yourself sitting in front of a game that looks like a slot machine in every way but it has a bingo card somewhere small on it, you’re actually not playing a slot machine at all – it’s a Bingo machine.

These exist because of how laws work around legalized gambling. Decades ago, the federal government organized games into three classes. Class III, which is what most of us have the most familiarity with, are Vegas-style games of chance – slot machines, banked table games (where the house banks the game with that tray of casino chips), and so forth. Class II relates to Bingo games, whether the game itself or devices that aid in the playing of Bingo.

Traditionally, we’d think of those as the tablets you can get in a bingo hall that lets you have more cards and have the machine auto-daub for you. But some clever souls realized you could also have electronic machines that place wagers, play bingo in lightning fast manner, and then show the outcome of that wager… as a slot machine spin.

This solution was devised because some states did not authorize Vegas-style gaming, but if a tribe is recognized they have the right to set up Class II gaming without needing to get state permission. And having Bingo machines that approximate slots in experience let them get around that limitation. 

Effectively, instead of a random number generator determining the outcome of the wager, Bingo determines the outcome.

Oklahoma red screen machines by VGT have taken on an outsized interest for many because of their unique setup of respins with growing pays, but Class II/Bingo machines have become much more ubiquitous. Here in California, casinos leverage both Class II and Class III machines. We’ve seen games like Dancing Drums Explosion, Buffalo and Ultimate Fire Link in a Class II configuration, and increasingly the Class II games are more and more like their Class III counterparts.

So if you see a bingo card, it’s not a traditional Vegas-style slot machine, but instead a Bingo machine. It works differently, but if you recognize the games and logos, you’re going to have a similar gaming experience nowadays.

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