Bingo Around the World
There are near-endless variations to the classic game of bingo. Virtually every aspect of the game is alterable: the number of balls, the venue, player superstitions, and, of course, the famous bingo lingo. It’s no wonder, then, that different bingo variants dominate in different parts of the world.
In this article, we’ll provide a handy rundown to how bingo is played in different countries. Who knows—maybe it’ll inspire your next bingo break!
We’re all familiar with some of Italy’s most famous innovations in the worlds of food and fashion, but you may not know that the Italians also invented the earliest form of bingo. It was almost five centuries ago when Il Gioco del Lotto d’Italia, bingo’s Italian ancestor, was first invented.
Though today’s bingo has evolved considerably from its 16th century origins, the game remains popular in its homeland, with 90 ball bingo being the most popular variant. There are over 300 bingo halls operating across the country—and, in contrast to the UK, it’s becoming increasingly popular for young people to head to their local hall for a game or two. Meanwhile, online bingo has gone from strength to strength since it was legalised in 2007, with Sisal being the most popular operator in the country.
Bingo may have been born in Italy, but few countries have taken it to their hearts as closely as the USA. As we explored in our comparison of UK and US bingo, the most popular bingo variant Stateside is 75 ball bingo. This variation was standardised in the early 1920s, and had become incredibly popular across the US by the 1940s.
Strict US gambling laws mean that commercial bingo halls aren’t as common as they are in the UK. Instead, most bingo games in the US are run by churches or charities. However, a few areas do allow for commercial bingo: the famously liberal state of Nevada, as well as Native American reservations. Meanwhile, strict online gambling laws mean that there are no US-based online bingo providers. This doesn’t mean that American players can’t play online bingo; they simply have to sign up to an international site that accepts US players.
If you thought the legal situation in the USA was bad enough, then spare a thought for Brazil’s hard-suffering bingo community. Bingo halls were first banned in the country in 1946, before being legalised in 1993. Within a decade, more than a thousand bingo halls opened up across Brazil. Unfortunately, this more liberal attitude was reversed in 2004, when Brazil’s president banned all forms of bingo and slot machines.
The Brazilian government has not, however, taken any explicit action to combat online bingo. Several sites accept Brazilian players, with some—such as Brasil Bingo—explicitly targeted at the Brazilian market. Whilst the legal situation remains unclear, there have been some efforts in recent years to soften the country’s stance towards bingo. Hopefully, Brazilian players will soon be able to enjoy a great game of bingo trouble-free.
Any experienced bingo player will know that there’s more to Sweden than ABBA and IKEA. They’ve also given the world Swedish Bingo—also known as 5 line bingo and High 5 bingo. Swedish Bingo is a spin-off of the classic 75 ball game, but has two key changes. The first is that there’s no free space in the centre of your card. The second is that, where traditional 75 ball bingo offers only one way to win, Swedish Bingo has five ways to win, with prizes for one, two, three, and four lines, as well as a full house.
It’s fair to say that Scandinavia has fallen in love with bingo: according to Gambling Insider, Finland’s online bingo market brought in $86 million in 2009, while Sweden’s was worth $176 million. It’s not just online bingo that’s big in the Nordic countries, though—a typically Swedish pastime is drive-in bingo, where players meet up for a game in the countryside. Meanwhile, Denmark even managed to create a particularly unique fusion event called opera bingo, where winners won a serenade rather than a cash prize. Clearly, Scandinavian bingo is hitting all the right notes!
The Land of the Rising Sun has had notably strict laws on gaming in the past. Most forms of gambling are still considered as forbidden, with pachinko parlours, lotteries, and some forms of sports betting being the few exceptions. In the past year, there have been some moves towards a softer stance, with the Japanese parliament passing a new law allowing for new casino resorts. However, bingo is still subject to strict rules, and land-based bingo as we know it in the UK doesn’t exist in Japan.
However, while bingo halls aren’t allowed, the Japanese are crazy about online bingo, especially the 75 ball variant. Eagle-eyed BingoPort readers may well remember that the world record for the largest ever game of online bingo was set in Japan, with almost half a million players in just a single game! Bingo lovers in Japan have plenty of options when it comes to bingo sites, with several of BingoPort’s recommended bingo sites serving Japanese players, including Mecca Bingo and Bet365.
In many countries, bingo players either head to their local hall, or play online. However, Russia’s bingo community has a third option: TV bingo. The popular TV show Russian Lotto has been going since 1994, and includes prizes for a line and a full house, as well as a special jackpot available if a winning ticket manages to get a full house in the first fifteen numbers. If no one wins this jackpot, it rolls over to the next show.
The most common bingo variant in Russia is 90 ball bingo. Land-based bingo is still popular in Russia, with Bingo Boom franchises operating across the country. Part of the reason for this popularity is that most other forms of gambling are banned in most of Russia. Online bingo is growing in Russia; operators serving the country include Maria Casino.
If you loved our guide to bingo calls with a 21st century twist, then you’ll love these typically Russian bingo calls.
|1||Peter I (Russian Tsar, also called Peter the Great)|
|12||Shakespeare (who wrote Twelfth Night)|
|31||Happy New Year|
|40||Ali Baba (and the forty thieves!)|
|43||Stalingrad (after the famous World War II battle)|
|61||Gagarin (who became the first man in space in 1961)|
|80||Babushka (Russian grandmother)|
|88||Matryoshki (Russian dolls)|
Not everything has changed, though—the Russian bingo call for 22 is utyata, which means ducklings (two little ducks)!
With a huge British expat community living Down Under, you might expect Australian bingo to resemble the game we play here in the UK. However, Aussie bingo—also called “housie”—actually bears most similarities to the US version of the game. 75 ball bingo is king here, with numbers arranged into lettered columns, with the letter and the number both being called out (e.g., “B6”, “G52”). Bingo halls exist across the country, and the game is often used to fundraise for churches, sports clubs and charities.
Online bingo is a little more difficult to come by. There’s something of a legal grey area here: it’s illegal for a site to offer real-money games for Australian players, but it’s legal for Australians to play online bingo. Aussie players have taken advantage of this and now play on offshore sites.
It’s the middle of summer right now, so what better way to finish off our article than with one of the UK’s most popular holiday destinations? You’ll be pleased to learn that Spain is almost as bingo-mad as the UK, with a strong tradition of bingo playing and over 300 bingo halls spread across Spain.
As you might expect, online bingo has really taken off in Spain, with popular operators like eBingo serving the needs of Spanish players. There’s also a more even gender split in Spain than is found in most countries, with the game popular with both men and women. So, on your next break in the sun, feel free to log on for a quick game or two—after all, you’re just doing what the locals do!