Bingo: How an Offline Game Turned Into a Hit Online

By  //  October 28, 2021

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Bingo has been around for centuries, since the Italian lottery, known as Il Gioco del Lotto d’Italia, started becoming popular in the 1530s. After taking Italy by storm, the game quickly spread across the border into France, where the upper classes were thrilled to have a new pastime that allowed them to socialise and play together.

It wasn’t long before Britain was bitten by the bingo bug, and it has been a popular game throughout the country ever since. Although it has gone in and out of fashion over the decades, there have always been those keen to play bingo games, from the earliest incarnation to the most recent varieties of this simple, yet compelling game.

Bingo has been an essential part of British culture for decades, but the 1920s marked the beginning of a bingo craze that reached its peak in the 1960s. A change in legislation in 1961 saw the passing of the Betting and Gaming Act which legalised large cash prizes for games such as bingo.

The unstoppable popularity of bingo

Eric Morley, a businessman who was already running a chain of dance halls, seized the opportunity to capitalise on the new legal position and introduced bingo into a number of them, including the Lyceum Ballroom in London’s West End.

Other operators also rode the wave of bingo’s popularity, and soon it was common to see bingo halls in all major towns and cities, with smaller, more informal games taking place in village halls and community centres all over the country.

Unlike other forms of low-stakes gambling, bingo had a distinctly social element to it, making it a popular choice among women who wanted to see friends and enjoy a night out as well as taking their chance at a big prize. Whole friendship groups would attend, catching up while playing and building new friendships among their fellow bingo fans.

Another key element in bingo’s popularity is its sheer simplicity: matching numbers drawn randomly means that anyone can win, but experienced players can gain an advantage by the speed and dexterity involved in keeping track of the calls and their cards.

The variety of different winning combinations also keeps gameplay exciting, as there are several different ways of winning including:

Four corners – the numbers in each corner of the card

■ Line – any horizontal line of five numbers

■ Two lines – any two lines on a ticket

■ Full house – every number on the card

Although the popularity of bingo halls began to decline after a significant peak in the 1980s, as one of the first games to go digital, bingo was ready for the technological revolution. 

There are many different ways players can win on a bingo card depending on the type of bingo game.

Bringing bingo into the 21st century

Even the fastest dabber and most expert bingo player was limited by the number of cards they could play at once, until the advent of electronic bingo. Players can buy packages of more tickets than a single person would conceivably be able to manage, sometimes with bonus tickets for additional special games. 

The electronic terminal marks of the numbers as they are called, constantly re-ordering the tickets according to the likelihood of each one winning and giving the player a better chance of success. Electronic bingo was so popular, that it was perhaps a natural progression from playing on a screen in a bingo hall to a completely digital version of the game that could be played from home.

The internet provided a mechanism for bingo to be brought up to date in style, and the format of the game lent itself perfectly to online play. Random number generators were already used, so adapting the interface to allow players to enjoy the game online was relatively simple.  

Online bingo could take various different formats, with the developer’s imaginations being the only real limits. Themed games, bonus rounds and special offers can all be incorporated into online games, bringing a variety that simply isn’t possible in the traditional version. 

Technology gave bingo a new lease of life by taking the game online.

The best of bingo has moved online

Online bingo offers everything that bingo halls used to, from the fun and excitement of the game to the chance to socialise. The community aspect of bingo is so important that it was one of the key aspects of the online version when it first came to prominence, with sites offering chat functions, social media connectivity and other ways for players to interact online. 

Bingo halls also used to offer regular ‘specials’ nights, where players could buy additional tickets at reduced prices and win bonus prizes, all of which have been incorporated into the online versions of the games. With sign-up offers, bonuses, free games and a variety of other promotions, bingo fans can now enjoy all their favourite aspects of the game when they play online.

While the days of bingo halls as a popular choice for socialising and entertainment may be drawing to a close, the game is still thriving online. With so many different versions available, there is a game to suit anyone’s playing style and preferences. 

Bingo has been a cultural phenomenon throughout the UK, with many of the standard calls remaining part of everyday language despite having fallen out of use in the game itself. Whether in person or online, with a centuries-long history and fans all around the world, it appears that bingo will continue to incorporate the latest technology, whatever that might be.