Online bingo is the game of bingo (US|UK) played on the Internet. Global Betting and Gaming Consultants estimates the global gross gaming yield of bingo (excluding the United States) was $0.5 billion USD in 2006; they forecast it will grow to $1.0 billion USD by 2010.
Unlike balls used in regular bingo halls, online bingo sites use a random number generator. Online bingo halls usually offer online casino games as well as the bingo, but the actual bingo play works almost exactly like playing online poker or online casino games, with everything being virtual. One notable feature of online bingo is the chat functionality. Successful online bingo sites foster a sense of community and interaction between players.
Some operators require players to download free software to play their games. Other operators use Java or Flash based games that allow you to play immediately online after registering a player account.
To win the largest prizes, users must fund an account, but free bingo games are also available offering players a way to win smaller amounts of money with no risk of gambling. Some online bingo sites offer no deposit bingo with sandbox play. This will allow the player to get the hang of the system without a cash investment, but no monetary value can be gained.
Most sites accept a standard range of e-wallet funding options, such as Neteller, Firepay, Citadel, Toggle Card, and PrePaidATM. Sites often provide a number of incentives to deposit, including matching bonuses where the site will reward depositing players by matching a percentage of their deposit.
Recently, the USA government has passed laws that limit banks ability to process credit cards for US citizens. The laws prevent US based payment providers from taking payments for online gaming.
How to play
Bingo is one of the easiest games to play and the online version is no different. Playing bingo online, players can make use of optional features which make playing the game easier, such as auto-daub. Auto-daub automatically marks off the numbers on cards as they are called, so players don't have to. Most software providers support other gaming features as "Best Card Sorting" and "Best Card Highlighting" where players cards are sorted and highlighted by closest to bingo. Some of these features are designed to free players to enjoy the communal pleasantries of the chat features.
There are also a great variety of games to play to suit just about every interested bingo player. Most of the top sites offer several bingo games. Some inexpensive game rooms appeal to the player who may want to play for just a 10 cents or 10 pence. Some bingo games only allow players to purchase the same amount of cards so you are not constantly competing against the "high rollers" out there who buy many cards for the same game.
According to the Internet Bingo Blog, there are over 357 online bingo sites currently operating. The most popular country for online bingo is the United Kingdom followed by the United States, Canada, and Sweden. Growth in online bingo is spurred by many countries banning smoking in public places as a high percentage of bingo hall players are smokers. With online bingo, smokers can smoke while playing bingo online.
The chat application brings a different dimension to gaming. This is where all the players of a game can meet and chat during games of bingo. Whereas in land-based bingo where talking is strictly forbidden during a game, it is actively encouraged in online bingo. Chat functions as an effective retention tool, aimed especially at the predominantly female audience.
It is customary for players to congratulate winning players with comments like "WTG," or "Way To Go." Much like instant messaging, online bingo chat communities have their own acronyms which are often used in replace of often repeated sentences.
CM stands for "chat monitor". The CM works for the bingo site as the host of a chat room and plays a role in welcoming players and creating a friendly and communal atmosphere in the room. This includes, but is not limited to, congratulating players when they win a game as well as playing chat games in-between bingo. Most sites have a chat protocol known as chat etiquette or chatiquette.
Popular chat games include Odds and Evens, Dodgeball, Roulette, At the Races, Birthday Bingo, Lucky Gem, Keno and Bullseye. On a busy site you can expect to win roughly four to eight times the amount it costs to buy a bingo ticket if you win one of these games.
90 Ball versus 75 Ball
There are two types of bingo played around the world. North America plays 75-ball bingo on a 5x5 card with the centre square usually marked 'free'. In the UK, parts of Europe, Australia and parts of South America they play a 90-ball game, marked on a 9x3 card. Both types of bingo are prominent online.
The desired pattern which players aim to achieve in 75 ball can vary dramatically, from a simple single line to more complicated themed patterns. The aim of the game, however, is always the same: to mark off the numbers to achieve the desired pattern.
Speed Bingo is a variation played exactly the same, but numbers are simply called much quicker.
In 90-ball bingo, each card has three horizontal lines and nine columns. Each line contains five numbers, meaning each card has 15 numbers. The first column contains numbers from 1-9, the second column contains numbers from 10-19, the third column contains numbers from 20-29, all the way through to the final column which contains numbers from 80-90.
A game of 90 ball bingo will normally be played in three stages: one line, two lines and Full House. In a "one line" game players need to mark a complete horizontal line across one card (i.e., 5 numbers marked). The aim of a 'two lines' game is to complete any two marked lines horizontally across one card (i.e., 10 numbers marked). Finally a "Full House" means all the numbers marked off on one card (all 15 numbers), as in a regular coverall game. The prize split differs for each stage of the game. The Full House is always the largest prize in any one game.
There are a number of sites that will have the same promotions, similar graphics, the same bingo rooms and the same CMs. This occurs because they are part of a bingo "network". In simple terms, this means a number of different sites (or "front ends") are playing with the same numbers for the same jackpot (i.e., the same back end). Multiple sites act as doorways to a single game, leading to larger pools of players in chat rooms and more sizeable pots to win, in an arrangement known as White Label Gaming. While the bingo software is the same, the brand owners are responsible for the look and feel of the site, together with any promotions they wish to offer. This is an important feature of online bingo in that it is critical that any site have enough players to have a decent sized game. Hence, the bingo network that "shares" players.
Online bingo in the UK
Bingo is now the most popular leisure activity in the UK for women between 20 and 25 years old. The UK market has seen an influx in big brand names launching bingo games on their already established websites. Huge brand names such as Yahoo!, Virgin, AOL UK and most recently MSN UK are all now associated with the UK online bingo market.
Gala Bingo the biggest land based bingo operator in the UK is also now online.
Much of the information pertaining to the popularity of online bingo is speculatory, but one monitoring website asserts over £600 million is spent per year on online bingo tickets.
The market share of the industry leaders was also released, based on the value of bingo tickets and game prizes. It is estimated that the number one UK online bingo site, with 19% of the turnover market, is Sun Bingo. This is followed by Gala Bingo (16%), Foxy Bingo (13%), Jackpot Joy (10%) and Mecca Bingo (7%).
Online bingo stats
Some 50,000 of the estimated 3 million land-based bingo players now play bingo online. 90% of these are below the age of 50, dispelling the myth that bingo is for the older generation. 85% of online players are women.
If you go into an online bingo site and enter the chat room, you will find that there are significantly more female players there than male players. That's why most online bingo sites target women aged 35-54 with their advertising.
A recent survey commissioned by St Minver Ltd, showed that the UK was third in a list behind the US and Japan of countries with the highest propensity playing online bingo.
One of the biggest bingo software providers, Parlay Entertainment undertook a survey of the bingo market together with UK bingo players. It derived from its product that of the $150 million global market, the US provided 85% of revenues, whereas the UK was the fastest growing online market.
While the market is growing fast, still only 1% of UK land-based players played online, showing that many have still not made the transition to online bingo.
According to Parlay, the current age demographic of bingo players is as follows:
18-34 = 29%, 35-44 = 29%, 45-54 = 28%, 55-64 = 12%, 65+ = 2%. Women spend 50% more time each week playing bingo than men. 28% of 40+ females play between midnight and 5am. The average amount spent online per player per month is around £120.
One of the earliest known online bingo games, launched in 1996, was a free bingo game called "Bingo Zone". To play, members had to provide demographic information; in turn, members would receive targeted ads based on the demographics provided. Another early pioneer for free online bingo was Uproar, which launched Bingo Blitz in 1998.
Notable bingo software providers include:
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