Today, millions of us play the game of bingo online, but since the 1930s and the first patented version of bingo, this is a game that has been played by tradition in large groups at the bingo hall. It’s a game that some players dip in and out of, playing only every couple of months, while others play every day – especially now that it’s so easy to play online.
The first bingo websites started appearing in the 1990s, but they really took off in the noughties, and today the choice of where to play online is almost limitless. Sites like Gala Bingo, Mirror Bingo and 32Red all offer a wide choice of different games, including 90 ball bingo – the version your Gran would have played – and 75 ball bingo, which has always been the predominant bingo game in the States, where you have to complete visual patterns with the bingo numbers in order to win the game.
Anyone who signs up to play online at Mirror Bingo will receive a 300% bonus when they first deposit £10, which means that you get a lot of bonus playing credit just for signing up. Many of the other sites also offer similar welcome bonus packages.
Perhaps surprisingly, given the universal popularity of bingo, it’s not something that has really been the focus of many films. However, there’s one film that really provides an interesting insight into the world of bingo hall bingo and that’s Bingo: The Documentary, directed by John Jeffcoat and released in 1999. Originally, Jeffcoat planned for the documentary to be a 15 minute short, but when he teamed up with producer Deryn Williams (whom he also ended up marrying) the project spiralled into something much larger.
The end result was an hour-long documentary that was filmed on film and digital video, and edited on a home pc. The documentary investigates the bingo-playing world in North America, where people go to gamble and meet like-minded people. Although it’s not really representative of many of today’s bingo players – many of whom have never entered a real life bingo hall and have only ever played online – it’s a fascinating look at life inside the bingo halls.
Many of the players featured are old ladies who smoke, but there are also people on welfare and recovering addicts who are featured in the documentary. Many of the players who are interviewed will play up to 40 cards at a time, so for people who suggest that bingo requires no skill, they should try keeping tally on how many numbers you have matching the calls when you’re playing that many cards at a time. There’s certainly a level of skill in doing that!
The bingo players interviewed describe the rush that they have when they’re one number away from a win as something as good as bungee jumping or even having an orgasm. They tell us about the lucky charms they take to play with, and the rituals they’ve established when playing bingo – things like always sitting in the same spot and what you wear to play.
Bingo: the Documentary focuses on the dynamics in bingo halls in America, but there’s also a look at other bingo locations – such as a bar in New York where players are playing to win drinks and a gay bingo club in Seattle. The film also shows us how bingo is different in the UK bingo halls and even to see the playing action on a bingo cruise ship.
For anyone who is just getting into playing bingo, it’s a fascinating documentary to look at the traditional bingo devotee, and while many of us who play online will never play as much bingo as the people featured in the document, it’s interesting nonetheless.