Bingo may seem like a game that’s been with us forever – but, in fact, it’s really only existed in its current form for under a century and it’s only a series of happy accidents that we have it at all.
Edwin Lowe was a travelling toy and novelty salesmanin the 1930s who visited many of the annual fairs in the Mid-West of America. At a number of these he came across a game called “Beano” being played in which the object was to listen to numbers being called out and covering any that were on the player’s game card with a dried haricot bean.
Lowe saw the potential in the game as one that could be simplified by ditching the beans and using pens to cross out the numbers instead. That way, there would always be a need to buy new cards. He also hit on the snappier name of bingo. The rest, as they say, is history.
The arrival of the bingo hall
While the original game of beano was fairly gender-neutral in its appeal, once that large bingo halls started to be opened it began to attract a distinctly female following. In those more conservative times of the 1940s and 1950s it provided a safe and respectable place for women to meet up with friends for a sociable evening in which the actual game was only one element.
For the importance that was placed on making these impressive places to spend time, you only have to look at some of the very best examples.
So, while men had sports to watch and bars to go to here, at last, was a space where women could escape the domestic duties that were generally all down to them during this less enlightened era. As a result, the traditional bingo hall soon became the sort of fortress that few men wanted to enter and often the only male on the premises would be the one up on stage calling out the numbers.
Bingo halls became a place where females would escape to on an evening for entertainment with friends.
As society changed in the 1960s and 70s and more entertainment opportunities started to present themselves, traditional bingo halls gradually began to fall out of fashion. Attendance numbers began to drop and many of the halls closed down or were converted to other uses. So, by the 1990s it seemed very much like bingo’s appeal was over.
The rise of the online alternative
Then, along came the internet and, with it, the online casino. This presented a whole new way to play games like blackjack, roulette and slots which soon gained an ever-growing following. The one thing that many online casino operators noticed was that the players were predominantly male and, not surprisingly, they wanted to redress the gender balance.
Bingo was the natural choice of game to do this. It relied on the same kind of software powering other games which used algorithms to create random outcomes that in “real” casinos could be achieved by picking a card or spinning a roulette wheel.
It also had a long history of appealing to women who would be the perfect audience. The social aspect of the game was another element that could be incorporated into the new bingo sites that were starting to emerge. This was achieved by the creation of chat rooms. Here friends could meet up, and new friendships could be made, in an online equivalent of the real bingo hall.
Online bingo providers created chat rooms so women could still socialise.
The big appeal of incentives
As well as designing online bingo sites to appeal to a more female audience, operators have also started using increasingly attractive bonuses and other offers to entice and retain new players. They are no deposit bingo sites. This allows users to play bingo games for free.
With so much competition between sites, it’s not surprising that they do so much to attract more women players, who are the real winners thanks to all of the rewards on offer. A lot of bingo sites also have the option to bingo split, where winnings will be divided up amongst the winners if there is more than one winner.
It’s also refreshing that there is one area of online gaming that is specifically aimed at women. Take a look at online casinos and it’s undoubtedly true that the great majority of them have a very masculine feel to them.
This is hardly surprising as the representation of women in video gaming in general has often treated them as less important than men with even female heroines like Lara Croft of the Tomb Raider series being objectified rather than respected figures.
Fortunately, times are changing in this sphere too with games starting to appear in which one of the main characters is a strong, independent woman with Red Dead Redemption 2’s Sadie Adler being a case in point.
The flipside of this coin is that bingo site may now also be making some of their first moves towards attracting more men to play. Some reports have found that on several sites up to 35% of players are now men, generally in the 25–35-year-old age range.
So, it could well be that one day it will be a 50/50 split – and how women will react to men muscling in on their traditional territory, we will just have to wait and see!