Bingo is known for its traditional rules, unusual number calls (“legs 11”, “two ducks swimming”), and social setting.
Bingo players mark numbers on a grid as a caller reads them. First to call “bingo” wins. Bingo is played in regulated bingo halls, RSL clubs, churches, nursing homes, and online.
Technological advances, high prizes, and co-locating bingo with pokies or other gambling goods pose new threats to players. Bingo’s reputation needs a makeover.
A Different Crowd
18,000 Victorians play bingo annually.
Poker attracts a different crowd than other gambling. Bingo players are usually older, destitute, Indigenous women.
A third of Australian bingo players have gambling problems, although it’s unclear if they’re related to bingo.
A US research indicated 25% of bingo players were problem gamblers. Bingo is rarely studied or regulated.
First big Australian bingo research. Aboriginal and Pacific Islander individuals in regional Victoria, retirees in Melbourne, and experts were interviewed. In Victoria, we played bingo.
‘i Get Lonely and Bored’
Bingo’s social aspect, affordability, and dependability were praised.
I’m alone… Bingo helps me avoid loneliness and boredom.
Money, escape from duties, and cognitive stimulation were also tempting. A senior informed us:
Bingo is otherworldly. Focus!
A few of study participants reported bingo-related problems, but they were serious. Player:
Bingo has a negative influence on Indigenous communities since we have less income and poor socioeconomic origins.
Bingo’s risks have grown.
Historically, paper books and pens were used. Experts may operate up to six “books” (grids) at once.
Bingo halls and certain RSLs offer personal electronic tablets (PETs). These tablets can save 200 games and cross off numbers for participants. Canadian research suggests tablets are akin to “pokies” Flashing lights and fast play engage gamers.
Tablets provide more games than paper. One analyst said 48 “books” might be purchased via tablet for $600.
Australia’s bingo laws vary. In Victoria, licenced bingo must benefit charity.
Victoria’s new bingo rules have increased costs and prizes. These changes include rolling jackpots, book price caps, and more players per session.
Licensed bingo centres offer jackpots of up to $450,000, which may be rolling or connected (merged across different centres). Fewer people win large prizes, whereas more lose.
Several study participants said they spend $1,200 for a “package” or multiple-game session.
More gambling increases a person’s risk of issues. Victoria’s licenced bingo halls can’t provide bingo and pokies, but clubs and hotels can.
In pokie settings, bingo is a “loss leader” to attract players and urge them to try other games. Someone said:
Crown Casino in Victoria stopped offering bingo after a Royal Commission, but previously offered free bingo with pauses for pokies and gaming tables.
Tabcorp and Lottoland were granted Victorian Keno live lottery licences in February, including for bingo halls. This expands bingo establishments’ commercial gambling offerings.
Lesser Of Gambling Evils
Bingo is less stressful than other gambling. Playing bingo for hours for $20–30 is an affordable outing, say some.
Capping game and jackpot pricing, limiting tablet games, and separating bingo from other gambling will preserve its benefits and prevent people from spending money they don’t have.
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