With an estimated 100 million regular players online and in bingo halls around the world, bingo is among the most popular forms of gambling nowadays. Based on chance and really simple rules, it is extremely easy to play. But bingo is enjoyed not only for its entertainment value – for decades, it has also been a source of social interaction between players. Bingo games have also been organized to fund a variety of charitable efforts, national causes, and public services.
In many aspects, bingo is a unique type of game and should not be regarded as a traditional form of gambling because it is so much more. Yet, it is offered in many gambling sites as an alternative to classic casino games like blackjack and roulette. It is also preferred over betting on sports and horse races by many who consider it a more innocent, light-hearted option to gamble. However, just like other more socially acceptable forms of gambling such as lotteries and scratch cards, bingo should be taken seriously and seen for what it really is.
This guide was designed to do exactly that – educate novices on what bingo is and isn’t; how it is played and how it should be played responsibly. Furthermore, the following sections and the articles within this digital guide try to dispel some of the most common myths about the game.
The information published here is not comprehensive and absolute in any way. It is nonetheless based on facts and compiled after rigorous research on the matter. Ultimately the purpose of the guide is to be informative and useful to anyone who wants to learn more about the game of bingo.
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Introduction to the Game of Bingo: History and Social Role
Bingo may look like a 20-century game but it first emerged in the 16th century and slowly evolved to the game we play today. Its appearance and basic rules did not change a lot since the time of its inception, though, which is probably one of its most interesting features. Bingo has been played across Europe and the United States under different names in different eras by various classes and social groups. But its online version has managed to reach the greatest and most diverse audience – online bingo rooms now connect millions of players from all corners of the world.
Origins and History of the Game
Much like other games of chance, bingo is not a new invention and although some researchers link its development with the history of lottery games, which exist since Roman times, its origins could be clearly traced to the 16th century. In the 1530s, a particular lottery known as Lo Giuoco del Lotto D’Italia was played in Italy and soon, it became popular in France, as well.
At first, the game spread as a form of entertainment for the French aristocracy under the name Le Lotto but in time, similar, yet more affordable lotteries were popularized across Europe. Le Lotto evolved into a game that, to a large extent, resembled modern bingo – it used game cards with 3 rows, 9 columns, and 5 numbers. In the 19th century, the game made its way to Germany where it was used by academics as an educational tool teaching children maths, language, and even history.
Bingo Evolving in the 20th Century
By the 20th century, different versions of bingo were popular in most European countries. None of them, however, was known under the name bingo – this did not happen until the 1920s in the United States. The game was brought in by Hugh J. Ward who saw it during a trip to Europe and decided to offer it at carnivals in Pittsburgh and around western Pennsylvania. In 1933, he published the first book with bingo rules. He did not invent the name “bingo” though.
Toy seller and game entrepreneur Edwin S. Lowe is credited with giving the game its current name. While visiting a country carnival in Georgia, he saw a group of people playing something they called “beano”. Lowe then played the same game with his friends when one of them shouted “Bingo!”, mispronouncing the original word “beano”. This is how the modern game was given its name, although the story could be fictitious. Lowe started to mass-produce bingo cards and advertise the new game, and by the 1940s, bingo was a popular form of entertainment across the country.
Soon, individuals, companies, and towns in the United States started organizing bingo games for commercial and other uses. Many charities and churches used bingo to raise funds for different causes, including in war efforts during World War II. Meanwhile, the modern form of bingo was popularized in Europe and the United Kingdom, as well. In Great Britain, the game was also seen not only as a form of entertainment but as a means to generate revenue for different charities and local councils.
Moreover, bingo was a social game, bringing together different generations and families. In the 1950s and 1960s, hundreds of bingo halls were built across the UK. Participation rates constantly grew and by the 1960s, 1 million Brits were playing every month. The bingo industry saw a huge surge in the following two decades at one point, it employed more than 20,000 people in the country. In the United States, the game appeared in various commercial and tribal bingo halls and today, it is legally offered in 48 states.
The 1990s were another important milestone in the development of the game. The same could be said for all forms of gambling, though – this is when the Internet made online gaming possible. In 1996, the first interactive bingo games were organized. Game developers started improving the software and the interface of the game, making it easier to play and more visually appealing than ever. Today, we have hundreds of online bingo rooms where we can play low or high-stakes games, connect with fellow players, and take advantage of various promotions.
Online Bingo Regulation
Before starting to play bingo for real money, players should learn how their customer rights, personal data, and funds are protected. Depending on the country they reside in, legislation could be very different for online and live, land-based bingo games. Most countries have come up with their own rules regarding bingo – in most of Europe, both brick-and-mortar and online bingo operations are regulated by local institutions.
In the United States, bingo is regulated on a state level rather than a federal one, which means that each state introduces its own rules and legislation when it comes to bingo. Licenses are issued by local regulatory bodies, as well. In Canada, the legal landscape is even more confusing – each province has the right to allow or ban bingo and other forms of gambling. Local institutions have legislative and regulatory powers, whether we look at land-based or online bingo. Below, we have listed several regulators responsible for the licensing and overseeing the bingo games offered by online operators in different jurisdictions:
- The United Kingdom – United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC)
- France – Autorité de Régulation des Jeux En Ligne (ARJEL) or Regulatory authority for online games
- Sweden – Spelinspektionen or Swedish Gambling Authority
- International – Malta Gaming Authority (MGA)
Bingo Basics: Rules and Gameplay
Bingo is a very simple game of chance and its rules can be learned by anyone within minutes. There are no significant differences between the online and land-based versions of the game and if you have ever played bingo, you will find all variations familiar and easy to understand. There are, of course, some regional differences but for the sake of simplicity, we will start with the most common version of the game, known as 90-ball bingo.
What Is Bingo?
The game is played by many people and it uses bingo cards or tickets, each divided into rows and columns and with numbers printed on it. The host of the game calls various numbers after picking them at random via a mechanical machine that draws numbered balls. Whenever a number is called out, players look at their tickets and daub it if they have it, using a special pen or a bottle of colored ink (called dauber). Depending on the style of the game (90-ball, 75-ball, etc.), the numbers are from 1 to a maximum of 90.
The object of the game is to mark all numbers on your ticket and if you are the first player to do that, you should yell “Bingo!, alerting the caller that you have won the game. The online version of bingo is almost identical but all wins are identified automatically by the gaming software. Of course, the physical cards are replaced with digital ones, and rather than using a mechanical drawing machine, the game employs a Random Number Generator (RNG). There are also various optional features that can make the gameplay even easier – auto-daub, for example.
Bingo Cards or Tickets
Usually, bingo is played with one or more tickets that are purchased before the start of the game. The traditional 90-ball bingo uses a 9×3 numbered grid – 9 columns with 3 rows, where each row contains 5 numbers and 4 blank spaces. There are 15 numbers on each ticket in total. A group of 6 tickets is called a strip or a bingo book and it contains all possible numbers from 1 to 90.
This means that if players purchase the full strip of 6 tickets or cards, they will mark off a number each time a number is called. However, this does not mean that they will win – to win, they need to cross all or at least some of the numbers in a predetermined pattern on one particular ticket. Daubing numbers on different tickets does not bring any rewards.
As we have said above, to win the jackpot of the game, players need to be the first to mark off all 15 numbers from their ticket. This is when they shout “Bingo!”, announcing their win to the caller and the rest of the players. This is the best-case scenario in the game and it is called Full House, after the popular winning hand in poker. However, this is just one of many possible winning combinations and most bingo games offer players many more winning opportunities:+
- Full House – All 15 numbers on the ticket
- Line – It covers all 5 numbers on any of the rows on the ticket.
- Two Lines – This is a combination of any two lines on one ticket, covering a total of 15 numbers.
The payouts for these combinations differ significantly in different games but their size always depends on the prize of the tickets. Typically, bingo games with more expensive tickets offer larger jackpots.
Online Bingo vs. Live Bingo Halls
The traditional bingo in land-based halls and the virtual bingo is played more or less the same way. They offer an identical game but they present it in two distinct environments and as a result, the gaming experience is completely different. Whether you would choose to visit a bingo hall near you or prefer the online option is up to you. The prices, jackpots, the speed of the game, and the level of convenience, however, would differ significantly.
For most players, modern bingo means online bingo. There is no need to look for local bingo venues; there is no need to leave your home to enjoy the game. Playing on bingo sites is much more efficient, affordable, and accessible to players from different countries and demographics. They can open the bingo room on their personal computer, laptop, or mobile device and each game is just a few clicks away.
All they need to do is find a reliable bingo website, register a user account and make a deposit using their preferred payment method (credit or debit cards, e-wallets, bank transfer, prepaid cards, and vouchers, etc.). Registration usually takes up to several minutes but many sites also verify the identity of their players by email or text message verification. More detailed verification procedures are in place when you make a deposit or a withdrawal from the website, however. Then, you might be asked to provide copies of your ID, credit card, and other documents.
Variety of Games
The variety of games is one of the most important factors when comparing land-based and online bingo. In brick-and-mortar venues, you are offered one particular version of bingo, while bingo sites typically have multiple bingo rooms and at least 3 or 4 different types of bingo. Moreover, online operators often host different games on their websites so whenever you wish something new and fresh, you can try various casino games. Usually, these are slots but some bingo platforms also host traditional games such as roulette, blackjack, poker, or craps.
The next huge difference between online and land-based bingo is the cost. Depending on the particular game and venue, a ticket on the Cashier’s Desk would cost from $2 to $15. Of course, most players would purchase several cards, paying at least $5 or $10. Not to mention the cost of food and beverage, transport, etc. When playing online, however, you can choose from various games, available at different prices – there are $5 games but you can also find tickets for as low as $0.05 (or even less). In addition, many bingo sites offer new and existing members free games, deposit bonuses, free tickets, and various other promotions.
Settings and The Social Factor
Traditional bingo halls are usually large venues where players can socialize, enjoy a drink, or dine in a restaurant while they are not playing. They would buy tickets at the cashier’s desk and head to the gaming floor, designed to house hundreds of people. The caller would be on the main stage, presenting the game and entertaining the audience. However, dedicated bingo establishments are not so popular as they once were and often, the games nowadays are held in smaller venues, community centers, or even in open-air places.
Still, the social factor is what makes land-based bingo so special for many players. They may not even go to the venue for the game itself; they visit the bingo hall mostly to interact with other players, have some good time with friends, and enjoy the thrill of playing against your competitors. Certainly, no bingo website can offer the same experience, although most websites now have Live Chat within the different rooms. Still, the real-life, physical interaction is the biggest advantage of playing bingo in land-based settings.
The Speed of the Game
Online bingo is an interactive game that focuses not only on the entertainment it provides but also on the speed and efficiency of the game. While land-based bingo is perfect for those who look for a night of fun and engagement, online games are designed for those who want fast-paced gameplay and more winning opportunities. A traditional game in a physical setting would usually take at least 15 or 20 minutes, often taking up to an hour – the caller will take a break or two; the game will be stopped several times to check for Full House, etc.
In contrast, the RNG calls the numbers consistently – every 2 or 3 seconds, and the software does not need a break. Of course, since all calls and wins are automatically verified, the game is much faster – it is estimated to be 4 or 5 times faster than a land-based bingo game.
Popular Variations of Bingo
Depending on where you play, bingo may come in many different shapes and forms. However, several main versions of the original game have been developed and popularized in the past few decades. Historically, the traditional variation in the UK is what we call 90-ball bingo, while the most popular game in the United States is known as 75-ball bingo due to the different bingo cards that are used.
We have already explained the main rules of 90-ball bingo – it is played on a 9×3 numbered grid and the full strip contains 6 tickets. Each row has 5 numbers so each ticket comes with 15 printed numbers on it. Of course, the possible numbers range from 1 to 90 and players need to cross all 15 numbers on a ticket to get a Full House. Some games also allow line wins or other different patterns.
What we should mention is that the numbers are arranged on the tickets based on a strict system – the first column on the grid can contain numbers from 1 to 9, the second – from 10 to 20, etc.
- Column 1: Numbers from 1 to 9
- Column 2: Numbers from 10 to 20
- Column 3: Numbers from 21 to 30
- Column 4: Numbers from 31 to 40
- Column 5: Number from 41 to 50
- Column 6: Numbers from 51 to 60
- Column 7: Numbers from 61 to 70
- Column 8: Numbers from 71 to 80
- Column 9: Numbers from 81 to 90
This is the traditional variation of bingo found in the United States. It uses cards of 25 squares arranged in 5 columns and 5 rows. The game is played with 75 balls or numbers from 1 to 75. All squares within the grid can contain numbers, except for the space in the center. So, each row comes with 5 printed numbers – the third row, however, can have only 4 numbers. In total, each ticket has 24 numbers.
Each column of the card is labeled – the letters are “B”, “I”, “N”, “G”, and “O” from left to right. There are several different winning combinations in 75-ball bingo and the top-paying one is when all 24 numbers are covered.
- Coverall – Players get Bingo when they mark off all 24 numbers from a card.
- Horizontal Line – This pattern includes all 5 numbers in a row.
- Vertical Line – This is a line of the numbers in one column.
- Diagonal Line – This pattern includes the two diagonal lines on the grid.
This is a new version of bingo, typically found in online casinos. It is played with numbers from 1 to 80 arranged on 4×4 cards. Each square contains a number so there are a total of 16 numbers printed on each ticket. To win, players need to cross off either all 16 numbers or get a line. Other patterns are also possible and the payouts depend on when the win was announced.
50-ball bingo was recently introduced in several online casinos and became very popular among players due to the fewer number it uses and the faster gameplay. The cards have a 5×2 grid (two rows and 5 columns) where 10 numbers are printed on all squares. The possible numbers are from 1 to 50 and each strip contains 5 tickets. There are two options to win here – players need to get a Full House or a Line.