“There was a farmer had a dog…” You know the rest.
For most of us, our first encounter with Bingo is as a farmer’s dog. Bingo’s legacy as a children’s campfire song is undeniable.
As we grew up, so did that dog. Bingo mutated from a song to a game. Five column cards filled with random numbers became the essential game of chance. That dog’s name became a shout of victory, filled with the joy and satisfaction of beating the odds.
For several decades, bingo was played in large halls, where hundreds of people played on game cards of cheap cardboard, hoping for the big score. Over the past decade, the game that owns the name of a farmer’s dog has made the jump from the VFW to the WWW. Bingo as a song is still tailor-made for young kids at the campfire, but the game has changed with the times and moved online.
Bingo has always been one of America’s hidden pastimes. According to IGWB, an estimated 1.6 billion people attended bingo halls across the country in 2003. To put things in perspective, that staggering attendance number is almost more than the amount of people who attended movie theaters and bowling alleys, combined.
Over the past four years, the number of bingo sites on the internet has increased twenty-one fold, from five in 1999 to 105 in 2003. Free bingo sites definitely seem to be the most popular place to get a game going. According to WhichBingo.com, over 45% of bingo sites are free play only. Around 70% of all online bingo sites are either totally free to play, or mostly free with a few premium, pay-to-play games.
Online bingo shows overwhelming popularity here in the States. According to Bingo.com, 90% of online bingo players who use free play sites are North American.
Eighty percent of those who played free, online bingo last year were female, according to Bingo.com. Surprisingly, the average age of an online bingo player (male or female) was 41, with over 80 percent of those players being between the ages of 25 and 55. Somewhat more surprising is the low percentage of players over 65. Traditionally, bingo is associated with senior citizens who spend their twilight years hoping for the jackpot. However, Bingo.com found that only two percent of free, online bingo gamers are over the age of 65.
While grandma still finds her way to the hall to get her game on, mom is sitting at home dialing-up to find her game. Bingo.com estimates that over 85% of online bingo gamers access their games from home, and over 50% play every day.
One major reason mom is addicted to the online version of grandma’s game is because of an autoplay function many sites feature. In an autoplay game mode, players simply let the cards play the game for them. As long as the cards are purchased and a game screen is up on a computer, mom can do things around the house while games are played. Also, many webpages include ongoing chat screens in addition to their games, so online players can get the bingo hall atmosphere right from the comfort of their own home.
“Keeping active chat lines running takes up a lot of bandwidth, so we tried to create several games without it,” said Anthony Wayne, an online consultant for Curacao-based Bingo site BingoHouse.com. “Each game failed miserably. Chat is very important to the success of these games.”
Before long, grandma could even be logging on for her games. If she does, as traffic trends seem to indicate, the online bingo market could soar in revenue. According to Parlay Entertainment, 70% of players in bingo halls already play online games. If 1% of remaining hall-only bingo players move to the internet in the next two years, online bingo could become a $700 million market.