Traditional Bingo vs. Online Bingo

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Published: 06/09/2010

For generations, Bingo has building a vast following. It is now enjoyed by countless numbers of players, both online and off. As an example of just how big the pastime has become, Gala Bingo, the U.K.’s leading Bingo operator, now manages some 175 clubs, employing 17,000 workers to serve a membership of more than five million.

Most Bingo enthusiasts participate for the opportunity to win big prizes for low stakes. Others play for the sheer fun of it, while many come out for the social aspect of the game. Although Bingo’s overall market continues to grow, there has been a shift of late away from live Bingo to the versions offered on the Internet, causing some concern that many Bingo traditions may someday be lost if the virtual game takes over.

In land-based Bingo halls, certain rituals have developed, such as the use of big coloured markers called “daubers” or “dabbers” to mark tickets as the numbers are called. Aficionados of the game have kits containing dozens of colours, even some with fluorescent ink. Of course, these are unnecessary online, where computer automation tacks numbers and marks tickets, untouched by human hands.

In the 90-ball game, each number has earned a nickname, such as “Kelly’s Eye” (one), “Me & You” (two), “Cup of Tea” (three), and so on. The practice of calling out these nicknames is still popular at resorts and when enjoying leisure games, but it is fading in money-focused play and has all but vanished on the Internet. Soon, few will know that “Key of the Door” is 21 (the age of majority) or that “Doctor’s Orders” refers back to the practice of army doctors giving soldiers a laxative pill called “Number 9.”

In cyberspace, no one can hear you scream “House,” or “Line,” or “Bingo,” the shouts that elated players give out when catching a winning number. There is only the silence of the screen and the flashing of lights. Nobody comes forward to share the joy, no congratulatory handshakes or hugs, no clapping of hands.

And of course, cash has always been king at bricks-and-mortar Bingo Halls. Payouts are made in cold, hard currency, and even the mechanised 80-ball version of the game uses coin slots. Online, however, money may be won, but “credits” are transferred to accounts electronically—no change to jingle, no crisp bills to fold.

In a contest between new and old, progress inevitably trumps nostalgia. Playing online Bingo at home is so much more convenient than getting dressed up and traveling to the nearest club. Having games available 24/7 and starting every few seconds is so much more inviting than scheduling attendance at a session in advance. And automation ensures that a winning ticket is never missed out. But there are even more reasons why online Bingo is growing by leaps and bounds while traditional Bingo is stagnating.

In 2007, laws were passed prohibiting smoking in Bingo Halls. For the health of patrons, that’s a good thing, but it had the effect of driving tobacco-loving players to a place where they can puff and play to their hearts’ content—at home on the computer. Once there, they discovered that the “social aspect” of Bingo did not disappear. In fact, it was oddly enhanced by the use of technology through a function called “chat.”

On Bingo web sites, which now number nearly 400, chat rooms are overseen by a chat monitor or host, whose job it is to entertain players with side games, answer questions, and keep the banter flowing among players. Typing in comments allows a free flow of emotions and ideas to be expressed, even as numbers are being called—something that would be frowned on in a real Bingo Hall.

Also, the variety of Bingo games on the Internet far surpasses what’s available on land. Themed games, low stakes games, free tickets, guaranteed payouts, newcomers games, progressives…there really is something for everyone online. And because the number of participants is getting so large, the prize pools are bigger and the cost of entry is lower than ever, making online Bingo a sure bet for the future of the game.

Published on: 06/09/2010

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