Bingo: United States vs United Kingdom

By  //  June 30, 2022

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Bingo is a game that is loved all around the world, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States. There are a number of differences and similarities in the ways in which the game is played, the type of bingo each country enjoys and the prizes that are given.

We look at how the game became popular in both the UK and the US and review some of the key differences in the game in each country.

The popularity of bingo in the US and the UK

The game bingo is thought to have made its way to the UK and US from Italy, where it has been played in some form since mediaeval times. Following the ending of the Second World War in 1945, Britons began to play the game as a way to meet up socially and have fun within the community. 

The game first peaked in popularity during the 1960s and it is estimated that during this time, more than 150,000 people in Britain visited a local bingo hall each day. Gambling laws in the country were amended to legalise and regulate the activity, making it a far more accessible game to enjoy. 

While the number of people visiting traditional bingo halls is in decline in the United Kingdom, the game is still popular thanks to the transition online. There are now a plethora of bingo providers available online, such as winkbingo, where British players log on to enjoy the many different variants of the game in a time and place that suits them. 

In the United States, bingo first received attention in 1929. A traveling salesman from New York spotted a game at a carnival in Georgia involving a board and some beans. 

On returning home, the salesman decided to recreate the board with different numerical combinations. Once the game had been approved by his friends, he put bingo boards into manufacture from the early 1930s.

Nowadays, many players enjoy electronic boards and online games. As in the UK, online bingo continues to grow in popularity while traditional in-person games are in decline.

In the UK, online bingo has become extremely popular, including on handheld devices.

Differences in gambling laws

Gambling laws in the United Kingdom and the United States are different and therefore access to commercial bingo differs between the two countries. In the UK, gambling online and in land-based venues is legal and regulated nationwide.

This means that bingo can be played on licensed websites or in venues that have a license and follow the rules set out by the UK Gambling Commission. 

However, in the United States, gambling legislation is managed at a state level and so permitted access to online and offline bingo depends on where you live. 

Some states, including Hawaii and Utah, prohibit bingo and all forms of gambling, while states such as West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey permit both online and in-person commercial bingo. 

It is expected that more states will update their gambling laws in the near future and remove restrictions, meaning even more Americans will be able to play bingo legally either online or offline. 

The gambling laws in the UK are much more relaxed than the gambling laws in the US.

Similarities and differences in how bingo is played

90 ball and 75 ball variants

In the United States, the most popular type of bingo is the 75-ball version. In this game, the card has 24 numbers with 5 columns that are divided into 25 squares.

To win this game, the player will need to mark off the numbers in a line, either vertically, horizontally or diagonally. There is also the blackout where all spots are covered.

However, in the United Kingdom the 90-ball game is actually the most common. This game card has 27 spaces in a 9 by 3 grid, the columns have 5 numbers and 4 blank spaces.

Usually, to win in this game players will need to get a line, which is a horizontal row, or a house. The term ‘house’ refers to all of the numbers on the card being crossed off. 

If you are used to playing one variant of the game, playing the other can be a bit of an adjustment at first as the card layout appears to be quite different. The 90-ball game is generally a faster paced game and can have more than one winner in a game.

In the US, players often play with a higher number of cards, games tend to be more competitive and tense. In the UK, the approach is often a little more laidback and more about the social experience.

Also, in the UK bingo club nights aimed at young adults and university students is becoming increasingly popular. These games involve silly games, joke prizes and fun activities such as dance off competitions.

The future of bingo

It is clear that online bingo is now outpacing land-based bingo and we can expect this trend to continue in both countries in the years ahead. Also, in the US we can anticipate player numbers will grow significantly as more states legalise gambling.