Saturday April 13, 2013 : U.K. ONLINE BINGO CONTINUES TO GROW
BBC report shows that the game is as popular as ever online
A report on UK bingo activity prepared by the British Broadcasting Corporation notes this week that around 350 online bingo sites are operating in Britain, well up from the 20 such sites that existed in 2004.
Among the online operators are most of Britain's major gambling groups, along with newspapers like The Sun and The Daily Mail.
The sense of community and social exchanges that are so important in the brick and mortar bingo environment appear to have been successfully translated to the online variety, where modern technology has made personal communication so easily accessible.
The BBC reports singles out the Foxy Bingo online operator as an example of modern bingo advertising and promotion, noting that the presentation and tone of its advertising suggests that its primary demographic is the woman player.
"Foxy Bingo is among the brands trying to add glamour to the game," the report notes. "Advertised – and played – against a backdrop typically drawn in purples and pinks, it is not difficult to work out who the marketing for the online version is aimed at, says the University of Glasgow's Prof Gerda Reith, an expert in gambling studies.
"Examples include the suave, purple-suited fox who leads a bus full of women on a big day out in Foxy Bingo's television adverts."
Unlike brick and mortar bingo halls, where chatter is kept to a minimum during play, the online environment has much more "chat" action, and many websites fill players' bingo cards in automatically, so that they can focus on personal exchanges and banter whilst playing.
Online bingo terms have appeared as a result, including BLNG (better luck next game) and HABO (have a better one). There are also private messaging facilities on most sites.
Traditional bingo turnover slipped 3 percent in the year to March 2012, according to Gambling Commission figures, with main stage, mechanized and seaside-style prize bingo turning over GBP 1.22 billion.
The Bingo Association says there are about 400 bricks and mortar halls in the UK – half the number in the game's heyday.
Mark Griffiths, professor of gambling studies at Nottingham Trent University, told the BBC that the growth of online bingo is part of the "feminisation" of gambling; the focus on its social aspects makes it more appealing, he says.
"People conceptualise it as a bit of harmless fun, a harmless flutter and even though they know it’s a form of gambling, they never use the word," says Griffiths.
Despite the impressive growth of online bingo it does not appear to have created serious addiction problems, with GamCare and the National Problem Gambling Clinic yet to encounter it as a significant issue.
Among the big brands, Mecca Bingo reports that a fifth of the money it now takes is online, rather than in traditional bingo halls.
The shift online is likely to continue, says Professor Griffiths, who believes bingo is at the centre of a new type of "soft gambling".