The Changing Face, and Gender, of Bingo
For such a simple game, bingo has a very long and fascinating history. It seems hard to believe that its origins lay in 16th century Italy where the simple idea of a lottery was born: the objective to raise money for the state.
As time went on, the concept of randomly chosen numbers leading to the possible winning of a prize was explored in many different ways, often with the objective of making the game more involving by actually making players part of the actual choosing of the numbers.
This eventually led to the game of bingo, but that’s not what it was called. Historians of the game will tell you that until the 1930s the game was known as “beano” and the clue as to how it was played is in the name. Players each had a numbered card on which they placed a dried bean each time one of their numbers was called out. The first person to fill a card called out “beano” and won a prize.
A popular game at state fairs, where it would often attract large crowds, it was only when a traveling salesman named Edwin Lowe noticed it being played that he decided to refine and market the game. Working with a printer partner, he started producing gamecards by the thousand. He ditched the beans and replaced them with pens to cross out the numbers – that way the cards became single-use leading to a demand for replacements. Most importantly, he changed the game’s name to BINGO.
The height of the first bingo boom
Many women visited bingo halls as a way to socialize with their friends and for a ‘night out’.
Gradually, the popularity of the game spread not just across the States but throughout the world. Typically, players were women across the whole age spectrum but maybe with an emphasis on the over 40s. The huge, cavernous halls were great places to go for a little R and R away from the menfolk with the chance to enjoy a few drinks and, hopefully, win a little cash too.
A whole Bingo culture also sprung up with special names for particular numbers – “legs eleven” and “all on its own, number one” being typical examples. But one thing that was distinctly lacking from the proceedings was the presence of men.
This was welcomed by many players who found it a great way to spend a little time away from partners in a safe environment while they could leave the men at home to watch a ball game or even enjoy a poker evening or two.
The halls were also quite an intimidating prospect for many men, so it’s not that much of a surprise that they chose to stay away.
The online revolution
The boom of mobile bingo enticed more male players to take part as there is more privacy than on a PC screen.
As tastes and social habits changed, bingo halls fell out of fashion in the 70s and 80s with many feeling the game was over. But in the late 90s online bingo sites started to appear online.
In the context of the emergence of online casinos generally, this seemed like a logical direction for the operators to go in. After all, the actual mechanics of a bingo game lent themselves perfectly to an online version with a random number generator, like the ones they were already using to play roulette, blackjack and even slots.
It also gave the sites the chance to target not just a younger profile of player than had enjoyed the bingo hall experience, but to try to draw in some men as well. The latter was made possible by the inclusion of more gender-neutral games that were specifically designed to provide an easy introduction to the online version.
The fact that online bingo, like all online gambling games, can be played in privacy also proved to be even more appealing to men who liked the idea of a simple-to-play game that they could enjoy for a few minutes in their spare time. This soon became even more possible as mobile gaming started to take off, providing just as good experience on a smartphone or a tablet as it did on a PC.
For men, and women, who also wanted to add an element of sociability to their online play, all the leading sites also thought to include chat rooms on their sites which soon built up a thriving online community, enjoyed by both genders, but predominantly by women.
Offers and incentives
Although the online bingo experience is enjoyable enough in itself, today there are a wide range of bonuses and offers that sites use to attract and retain players – many of which are just the sorts of hooks needed to reel in more male players.
The first, and most commonly used of these, is free cash to play with. Often this involves matching a player’s initial deposit up to a specified limit, sometimes it allows players try out the games for free, but with the chance of winning actual cash prizes.
There are also a range of loyalty schemes in which players can collect points that can later be exchanged for stake money or even free gifts and shopping vouchers. Again, the sites keep male players in mind by offering the sorts of rewards that they would like.
The game comes full circle
The phenomenal success of online bingo, and the attraction of a whole new kind of player, has even led to a reboot of the original game. In cities all over the world, and especially in London, a whole new nightclub bingo scene has emerged. It attracts the usual club crowd who came along for a night of karaoke, dance-offs and bingo at these one-off events that tend to start off subdued before getting gradually wilder as the night goes on.
Most importantly, men and women seem to find these nights equally entertaining and demand for tickets is always high.
So look out for one in your area soon and, before you head along, why not sharpen up your own bingo skills with a little online play first?